Tinted Lenses – Visual Stress, Migraines and more

I’ve been wearing tinted glasses since I was 12 years old. I started out with dark green but very quickly moved to orange. I’ve had a fair few pairs of orange tints. I’m used to them, I think I look a little odd without tinted glasses now! I just see them as part of myself but I’ve spoken to a few people recently who’d never heard about the amazing properties of tinted glass.

So here goes my intro to tinted lenses. This is written from my personal experiences as well as from the experiences of my other tint-wearing friends.

So my visual problems are complex and I’ll do my best to explain them to you.

My most severe issues is ‘Visual Stress’ AKA ‘Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome’ or ‘Irlen syndrome’

Visual Stress (VS) is somewhat under researched and not fully understood but I’ll do my best to explain. Its almost like my brain can’t handle all of the light waves at once. The image comes through scattered and confused. I live life with a constant layer of static over my vision.This a constantly changing pattern of dots in all different colours that overlays everything I look at. The easiest way of explaining it is like a heavily processed photograph with digital ‘noise’ over the top or the static effect of night vision cameras. I’ve seen a few video demonstrations showing something similar but they produce an almost strobe like effect so I won’t be sharing them. The last thing I want for this post is to cause someone additional visual problems! So here is my best guess as to how my vision looks in picture form.

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The top pictures show my vision as it is normally. The little dots will be in constant movement. The bottom two pictures show my vision as it is corrected by orange precision tinted lenses. Still a little bit of static but much less, and a healthy tan for everyone I look at! Sunsets also look 100x better with rose/orange tinted lenses!

My vision is like this all the time so I’ve almost become used to it but it does cause me some big problems. I very easily get headaches, especially when confronted with blue lights and harsh white LEDs. My complex migraines also have a light sensitive element so when I have a migraine I end up doubly light sensitive.. dark rooms aren’t dark enough!

I consider myself virtually night blind. Its not that I can’t see light in the dark its that I can’t see past existing light sources well enough for my vision to be any use! My vision is actually better when I’m out in the country side away from all artificial light!

I’ve done my best to edit a photo to demonstrate my night vision.

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This is one of the car parks on the Northampton University Campus. Its pretty well lit, most people would have no problem with it.

In the dark the static effects of my visual stress are magnified, the static becomes very distracting and it becomes much more difficult to ignore it. I also see starburst effects much like you would see in photographs of light sources. When I’m a passenger in the car at night the starburst lines from street lights reach the full height and width of the windscreen and even extend across the dash board. I struggle to look at anything besides the light distortions!

Along with my visual stress I also have dyslexia, I’m not too badly effected by this and without the VS I don’t think i’d have much of an issue at all. I struggle to process too much visual info in one go and I find reading off stark white paper very difficult. The colour sensitive nature of my VS is linked to my dyslexia, I present as ‘more’ dyslexic when faces with light blue or white info or in blue/white rooms. I learn in a classically disordered dyslexic way. I struggle with structure and I prefer to go with the flow and go where my mind takes me.

My visual static is much more obvious on plain surfaces and I also see ‘rivers’ in the text so plain black text over white paper looks something like this…

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See how learning to read or write was a challenge? With my tints the static is reduced and the rivers in the text become a bit less distinct.

Another issue I have is my almost complete lack of depth perception. I see things as bigger or smaller and have had to learn that sometimes that actually represents depth. I think of my vision like layers of acetate, each aspect of the picture on one sheet, all layered on top of each other.

My final issue is to do with my Ehlers Danlos. I get spasms in my eye muscles! I am very particular about my prescription in my glasses but I often have to repeat the distance vision tests two or three times, each one giving a slightly different result. Luckily my optometrist knows how my eyes behave and is happy to spend the extra time making sure I leave with the right prescription! If I’m struggling with muscle spasms as part of a flare up I often find my vision gets worse.

This poses some interesting issues with sport. Particularly during my parkour and free running days, I literally couldn’t tell how far away the other side of the jump was.. before each jump I had to ask my partner if he thought I’d make it or not! Sometimes I’d jump off something too high or too far and not realise I wasn’t going to make it until  hit the floor! I have found a partial solution to that thought. Tinted contact lenses!

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You can see them in the pic above, I naturally have green eyes!!


The tints might save me a lot of hassle but there are a few major draw backs:

  • The cost! Testing and lenses are likely to set you back a couple of hundred pounds! The contacts are worse, the ‘cheap’ generic orange tints in the pic are £155 per lens. They last about 6 months to a year. For custom tinted lenses (if the generic tint doesn’t suit you) you’re looking at about £100 more than that! For me the cost is worth the benefits, this isn’t the case for everyone!
  • Driving. the tint in my glasses cuts out a lot of light, the darkest pair I owned cut out over 70% of incoming light, this is too dark to drive in legally so I have not yet been able to get behind the wheel. My current tints are lighter so I may well be able to drive in the distant future.
  • Colour Distortion. Be careful shopping or getting dressed up in tints, the darker the tint the more it will alter your perception of colours so its wise to peek at coloured items before buying them, the little black dress might actually be green, brown or purple!
  • Choice. Tints come in every colour available but sometimes what your body needs isn’t your favorite colour..it might not even be a colour you like. Luckily for me I rather like orange!

So hopefully by now you’ll have a good idea about visual stress and how it affects me. Maybe you think some of this applies to you? well I have a few hints and tips for daily living with light sensitivities or visual stress.

Hints and tips:

  • Light bulbs: In the bedroom I’ve changed some of the light bulbs to orange ones, that way I can get awar without actually needing to wear my tints, especially if I’m reading in bed.
  • e-readers: I have all but given up on books. I currently have a kindle fire HD and one of my favorite features is the ability to change the page colour when you’re reading! you can change the font, font size, line spacing, page orientation, line width and screen brightness
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  • If e-readers aren’t for you then old books are often easier to read then new ones. 2nd hand books tend to have less glossy pages so they don’t reflect light as much.
  • Sunglasses: sunglasses come in both warm and cool tones so they are often a cheap alternative to tints.
  • Semi-sheer curtains or blinds, filter the light coming into your house.
  • screen tinting software like ‘Claro View’ can be a great to tint laptops and PC’s eliminating eye strain while working at your computer.
  • Free tinting apps, I currently have an app called ‘Twilight screen tint’ on my phone that can tint the screen to a few different colours as well as filtering the blue elements of electronics that can keep you awake in the evening! A quick google search brings up a few different ‘irlen filters’ so it might be a case of experimenting till you find one to suit you!

I  really hope some of this has been useful to you and if you have any feedback I’d love to hear it. If you have any tips or tricks to add to the list please do let me know 😀

Ciao for now

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12 thoughts on “Tinted Lenses – Visual Stress, Migraines and more

  1. Hi, I have Irlen Syndrome too – I have never heard it called Visual Stress before! And I can’t drive very well at night because of zero depth perception, plus I get visually triggered migraines but I didn’t know they were all related so, thank you – a very enlightening post!

    1. Glad you found it useful 😀 There was sooooo much debate when I applied for a drivers license. After multiple optometrists it was basically decided I could only drive in daylight but it turns out I’m uninsurable anyway! No driving for me!

      1. How do you cope with no driving? I’m not even going to think about it – my disabled kids depend on me to drive :/ But at night I usually ask the passenger to double check for me before I change lanes.

        1. Unfortunatley it simply isn’t safe or legal for me to drive. I’m reliant on my carers (mum and boyfriend) and mu friends to drive me around. I work from home and the shops & Drs surgery are close enough to walk/wheel. I’m lucky situation wise but it is a bit of a pain!

  2. Just wanted to throw into the mix my eds eye issue in case your readers find it useful .instead of my eye muscles being affected, I have problems with the ligaments holding my lenses in place. Every wobbles a bit because the lenses aren’t held still

  3. Have you tried dark rose / ruby tints? Also, get your MTHFR genes checked, most likely defects causing amino acids to be off balance and metabolic toxins affecting brain eg.visual snow from hyperexcitability of neurons in brain.

    1. Interesting to know I’ll have to do some research. I have tried a LOT of colours and the test always comes back to a similar combination of rose, orange and yellow 🙂

  4. Hi Jo this is really interesting! I also find similar problems and I’m dyslexic exempt it is blu/purple help me and I don’t wear tints but I have a question what you said about spasms linked to eds and eye tests with this. Who made the link for this and do you found any way round it in eye tests? Iv had spasms for years but eye test by the time they try all different lenses in they spasm so I can’t read even biggest letter and is basically guesswork (I had eye tests at hospital but they discharged me now) and hard getting right prescription! Any tips? Thanks for writing this 🙂

    1. Happy to help, I made the spasm connection with my optometrist, we’ve not found a solution but now that my Postural Tachycardia is medicated I’m having less problems with spasms in general so my eyes are also better. When i have my sight test done we always repeat the distance vision a few times, the average result is usually the right one, I then have a short break and we double check just beofre they send off the prescription, just make it up then ask me to read the bottom line as quick as I can. usually it works pretty well 🙂 I’d also reocmmend anti-fatigue lenses (google them) they are designed to reduce eye strain when reading and they help my eyes ‘relax’ 🙂

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