Irlen Screening

Irlen Screening is provided for people who have trouble with reading, learning difficulties, low motivation, ADD, headaches, autism and traumatic brain injury.

What Is Irlen Syndrome Screening?

Irlen Syndrome screening and testing are provided for people who have difficulty with reading, learning difficulties, low motivation, ADD, headaches, autism, or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Irlen Syndrome is a visual processing problem, where certain colors of the light spectrum tend to irritate the brain. It is not a problem with the eyes. It is a problem with the way the brain processes visual information. People with Irlen Syndrome commonly experience light sensitivity. Read on to learn more or reach out to our care coordinators who are happy to answer your questions.

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Why Choose Amen Clinics for Irlen Screening?

Most psychiatrists and mental health professionals are unaware that Irlen Syndrome can be associated with psychiatric conditions, therefore it often remains undetected and people continue to suffer. Amen Clinics has decades of experience with Irlen Syndrome, and our brain imaging work gives us unique insights that prompt us to investigate if our patients may have Irlen Syndrome. Because of this, we are better able to help our patients get a diagnosis and proper treatment for this condition.

Irlen Syndrome Causes and Symptoms

Irlen Syndrome is caused by varying factors, including genetics, head injuries, and inflammatory processes such as Lyme disease. When you have Irlen Syndrome you may experience anxiety, difficulty with focus, or migraines as your brain attempts to properly process visual information.

For most people, reading black characters on a white background isn’t a problem. But for people with Irlen syndrome or scotopic sensitivity, reading can be disorienting or even painful. In severe cases, words can transform into a confusing, disorganized sea of letters. Others see objects as closer or farther away than they are, or in different locations entirely.

People experience a wide variety of symptoms from Irlen Syndrome. Some common symptoms include:

  • Light sensitivity; being bothered by glare, sunlight, headlights or streetlights
  • Strain or fatigue with computer use
  • Fatigue, headaches, mood changes, restlessness, or an inability to stay focused with bright or fluorescent lights
  • Trouble reading words that are on white, glossy paper
  • Words or letters shifting, shaking, blurring, moving, running together, disappearing, or becoming difficult to perceive while reading
  • Difficulty reading music
  • Feeling tense, tired, sleepy, or even getting headaches with reading
  • Problems judging distance and difficulty with such things as escalators, stairs, ball sports, driving, or coordination
  • Migraine headaches

Ready to learn more? Contact a care coordinator today!

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Diagnosing and Treating Irlen Syndrome

Irlen Syndrome is treated through a fascinating application of the science of color. In the early 1980s, while working with college-educated adults who struggled with learning and reading difficulties, Dr. Helen Irlen developed what is now known as the Irlen Method. Dr. Irlen discovered that colored, tinted lenses could be used to filter out the wavelengths of light that are bothersome. Using these overlays while reading can eliminate brightness and distortion issues, reduce stress on the brain and allow it to function better.

To be screened for this condition, it is important to visit a certified Irlen Screener to determine the right treatment for you. Screening involves a 2-step process:

  • Step 1: In the first session, a screener will determine the severity of your condition and will identify which color of the overlay will provide the most benefit for you. Generally, you will receive a color overlay—basically, a plastic sheet that you can place over a page with writing on it—so you can gauge the level of improvement. Only those with moderate to severe Irlen Syndrome need to proceed to step 2.
  • Step 2: In the second part of the screening, you will try various tints of that color to determine which wavelengths of light your brain has trouble processing. Through this process, a unique tint that is personalized to your needs will be created. Your personalized color will be worn as glasses or contact lenses.


It’s important to understand that wearing colored glasses that are the wrong color could make your symptoms worse. This is why it is critical to see a certified Irlen Screener.

Who Should Be Screened For Irlen Syndrome?

Irlen Syndrome affects 12-14% of the general population. It also afflicts 33% of people with ADHD or autism, nearly 50% of individuals with reading or learning challenges and 55% with head injury, concussion or whiplash. Irlen Syndrome also tends to run in families and is seen in inflammatory conditions like Lyme disease.

Because Irlen Syndrome is seen in so many other conditions, anyone who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety, irritability, depression, decreased concentration, low motivation, learning difficulties, or migraines should be screened for Irlen syndrome. Students who take a long time to complete homework, do poorly on exams, or avoid reading assignments should also be screened.

How Treatment For Irlen Syndrome Helped Heather

Correcting Irlen Syndrome with this non-invasive treatment can lead to improved comprehension, motivation, self-esteem, and academic/work performance. And the results are often immediate and dramatic. Just look at how it worked for Heather. At age 42, Heather had been in 10 car accidents when she sought help for symptoms of ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and depression. During her evaluation, she told the physician that she had trouble reading and fluorescent lights gave her headaches. Her physician suspected Irlen Syndrome and sent Heather for screening.

Two weeks later, Heather was beaming. With the Irlen lenses, her focus was better, her anxiety was reduced, and her mood had improved.

As part of her evaluation, Heather had undergone a brain scan using brain SPECT imaging. SPECT measures blood flow and activity in the brain and shows areas with healthy activity, too much activity, and too little activity. Heather’s brain scan prior to getting her Irlen lenses was remarkably overactive, which is consistent with some types of anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD. In her second brain scan, taken while she was wearing her Irlen lenses, her brain looked significantly calmer.

Before Scan: Excessive Activity In Many Areas

After Scan: Calming Effect While Wearing Irlen Lenses

In brain imaging studies performed by Amen Clinics, we have seen that people with Irlen Syndrome tend to have increased activity in the brain’s emotional and visual processing centers as well as decreased activity in the cerebellum, an area that helps to integrate coordination and new information. Before-and-after scans, like Heather’s, show that when people with Irlen Syndrome are properly treated, it helps to balance overall brain function. This is so important because the brain is involved in everything you do—how you think, how you feel, how you act, and how you interact with others. When your brain is more balanced, it helps you perform better in all areas of your life.


“With A Better Brain Comes A Better Life”

– Daniel G. Amen, M.D.


What Is Irlen Syndrome?

Miranda Makary, B.S., R.N. from Amen Clinics Washington D.C. describes what Irlen Syndrome is, its symptoms, how it can affect one’s life, as well as how it is treated. She describes this visual processing problem, which is more common than most people realize, in more detail and explains how Irlen Syndrome causes the brain to process information in ways that can cause bothersome symptoms, including reading difficulties and light sensitivity. Watch the video above to learn more.

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