Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting in with a wonderful orthoptist.  Unfortunately, most of the patients cancelled or didn’t show up so the experience wasn’t going to tick off many of my pre-reg competencies (I’m not that worried, to be honest, since I’ve seen some really interesting BV problems in practice – more on that later).  It did give me a chance to ask some random questions and hear some great stories, including this one:

A Glaswegian guy, we’ll call him B, was in his twenties and had never done well at school.  B always had problems reading and had been labelled “thick” by teachers.  

He was at his friend’s house one day and it somehow came up that the friend also had problems reading.  Recently, the friend had bought a coloured poly-pocket to keep his documents in and weirdly enough, had found that the documents looked much clearer through the folder.  B had a look and, lo and behold, he could read the text better through the poly-pocket as well.  

Thinking “this is a bit strange”, B went to his optician and said that he could read better through the poly-pocket.  The optician was old school and didn’t really know what’s going on but B was so insistent that the optician sent a letter to B’s GP.  The GP then asked the orthoptist what she thought.

Well, as you probably guessed, B was found to have Meares-Irlen Syndrome.  He went away with an overlay (sadly, a different colour to the magic plastic wallet) and after a few months, he got precision tinted specs.  B ended up going to college because reading wasn’t a barrier for him anymore.  

And his friend later went for an assessment.

I loved the strange chain of events that changed this man’s life.  If his friend hadn’t picked up a coloured (yet see through) folder, his visual stress may never have been detected.  If the folder had been a different colour, it may not have worked in the same way.  If his friend didn’t have visual stress too, then B would still be struggling to read.

In my experience, Meares-Irlen is difficult to describe to people without them thinking you are a bit mad.  Also, we don’t know if what we are seeing is normal or not as we only have our own experience to look back on.  It’s only if something changes that we are suddenly aware that the way we see might not be the way we are meant to see.

Just before Christmas, I had a young boy come in for his first eye test.  His parents had never needed glasses so they hadn’t thought to get his eyes tested.  This boy was playing with his friends one day and decided to put on someone else’s glasses.  Suddenly the world was clearer.  He came home and told his mum and dad that he could see better when he put on his friend’s specs.  They made an appointment and he was +2.00DS in one eye and +4.50DS in the other!  Again, if this random event hadn’t happened, he may have ended up with amblyopia.  In the end, he got a nice pair of fashionable black plastic specs to wear full time and I’ll see him again in a few months.

I’m a sucker for a happy ending.