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Irlen Syndrome: Signs & symptoms

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Signs and Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome

There are a variety of signs and symptoms of Irlen Syndrome including:

  • Light Sensitivity Issues,

  • Reading Difficulties,

  • Print Distortions,

  • Spelling Problems,

  • Concentration and/or

  • Behaviour issues,

  • Writing Challenges,

  • Depth Perception Difficulties,

  • Eye Strain,

  • Headaches,

  • Migraines,

  • Fatigue,

  • Low Self Esteem,

  • Anxiety.

Light Sensitivity

  • Bothered by glare, fluorescent lights, bright lights, sunlight and sometimes lights at night.

  • When in bright or fluorescent lights some individuals experience physical symptoms. They can feel tired, sleepy, dizzy, anxious or irritable. Others experience headaches, mood changes, restlessness or difficulty staying focused.

Reading Problems

  • Skip words or lines, repeat lines, lose place, miss the punctuation

  • Problems tracking from line to line

  • Misread words, do not recognise common words/sight words

  • Read slowly or hesitantly

  • Inefficient reading

  • Poor comprehension, needs to reread for understanding

  • Prefer to read in dim light

  • Avoid reading

  • Become easily distracted while reading

Print Distortions

  • Words lack clarity or stability - they may blur, move, double, look three-dimensional, squash together, appear faded or disappear

Eye Strain, Discomfort

  • Eyes may hurt, burn, itch, water, feel dry or sleepy, look red, strain

  • Rub your eyes while reading

  • Strain and/or fatigue when reading, using the computer or working under bright or fluorescent light

  • Headaches, migraines

  • Nausea, dizziness

Spelling Difficulty

  • Use the correct letters but in the wrong position

  • May reverse letters and small words

  • Forget common words

Attention, Concentration and Behaviour Problems

  • Difficulty with concentration when reading and completing academic tasks

  • Easily distracted, lack of motivation, poor attitude to learning, frustration

  • Fidgety or restless when reading

  • Often, people appear to have other conditions, such as attention deficit disorder.

  • Some may be prescribed medication unnecessarily

Writing Problems

  • Trouble copying

  • Unequal spacing, unequal letter size

  • Writing up or downhill

  • Inconsistent spelling

Other Characteristics

  • Sloppy, careless maths errors, misaligned numbers in maths columns

  • Difficulty reading music

  • Ineffective use of study time

  • Grades do not reflect the amount of effort

  • Low self-esteem

  • Anxiety

Depth Perception

  • Clumsiness - knock into objects, trip on stairs, veer into people when walking beside them

  • Difficulty catching balls

  • Difficulty judging distances

  • Additional caution is necessary while driving

  • Difficulty parking the car


  • Fatigued after work or school

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Awareness of healthcare issues is critical for long-term success and optimising our long-term performance


  • Taken directly from with permission (The Australian Association of Irlen Consultants)

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