Visual stress could be a symptom of ME

25 November 15

written by:

Ade Deane-Pratt

(more articles)

Problems looking at patterns might help diagnose the condition also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

Colour sketch of a woman slumped over, representing ME/CFS. Via Wikimedia Commons.
CFS by Jem Yoshioka from Wellington, New Zealand.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a condition that makes people exhausted in a way that affects everyday life and doesn’t go away with sleep or rest. 

Other symptoms linked to ME include pain, poor sleep and trouble concentrating. But it’s hard to diagnose ME as these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions.

Exhausting reading

Results published in the journal Perception show that people with ME are more likely – compared to people without ME – to feel discomfort and exhaustion when doing things like reading text or looking at repeated patterns of stripes. The researchers call this ‘pattern-related visual stress’.

Problems with vision that are easy to spot and test for, and that are also linked to ME, could make ME easier to diagnose. We already know that people with ME consistently report eye strain, trouble focusing or moving their eyes and getting headaches linked to vision. And Dr Claire Hutchinson, who led the study at the University of Leicester, has also confirmed in previous research that people with ME have problems with eye movement and can have severe eye pain.

Fight for Sight research

Fight for Sight is currently funding Dr Hutchinson to find out whether ME affects other aspects of vision, such as depth, colour and seeing clearly. The results are due next autumn. They may help show that fatigue plus a specific range of eye symptoms is a clear hallmark of ME.