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Frequently Asked Questions

We invented Computerised Test Charts in the mid 90s and we now have over 6000 systems installed in the UK alone. Over the years we have supplied large hospitals to single consulting rooms and have developed unrivalled expertise in this area.

We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions below but if you would rather speak to somebody, call one of our experts – we are always happy to help.

Select the required category of FAQ below:

 

Meares-Irlen Syndrome, (also known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, Irlen Syndrome or Visual Stress) is the term used to describe a condition characterised by a variety of symptoms which occur when looking ar certain patterns including rows of text. Some people with the condition report that the words appear to move, wobble or flicker while others report seeing illusory colours and patterns in the text. These symptoms make reading uncomfortable and even unpleasant and can affect reading speed and fluency. Some sufferers may also experience headaches or migraines after reading for a period of time.

There are a number of theories about why this happens but there is growing evidence that it is due to nerve cells in the area of the brain responsible for vision, becoming over-stimulated by certain patterns.

For reasons that are poorly understood, the symptoms are often reduced by changing the background colour to a colour other than white. The optimum colour seems to vary from one person to another.

Meares-Irlen can cause a wide range of symptoms with many people reporting more than one of the following:

  • Blurring of print.
  • ‘Squashed up’ print .
  • Movement of print – wiggling or vibration of letters.
  • Letters muddling or words ‘falling off the page’.
  • Letters changing or doubling.
  • Letters fading or becoming darker.
  • Patterns appearing in the print.
  • Illusions of colour – blobs of colour moving on the page.
  • Nausea, discomfort or even pain caused by glare from the page.
  • Rivers of light snaking through the text (often described as waterfalls).
  • Headaches, tired or sore eyes.

These symptoms range from mild to severe and tend to reduce reading speed and fluency.

 

People with Meares-Irlen syndrome often show one or more of the following signs:

  • Moving closer to or away from the page or frequently changing position.
  • Rubbing eyes.
  • Excessive blinking or looking away from the page.
  • Tiring quickly. Concentration may be poor and attention span may be short.
  • Poor assimilation of reading text.
  • Losing place easily.
  • Poor spelling.
  • Misreading words.
  • Speed or rate of reading is slower than expected for intelligence level.

If you have noticed that a child is doing any of the above, it is usually a good idea to get their eyes tested by an Optometrist to rule out various other causes – it may be that they simply need glasses or eye exercises.

However, if the behaviour persists, they may have Meares-Irlen syndrome.

It is very difficult to know exactly how many people suffer from this condition because the symptoms range from mild to severe and many people are unaware that they have this condition – “I have always been a slow reader”.

However, studies have shown that at least 20% of the population get some benefit from coloured overlays, and 5% read significantly faster with a coloured overlay.

Meares-Irlen can be a significant disadvantage when learning to read and children with the condition may be wrongly labelled as dyslexic or poor readers.

Some people find that the symptoms of Meares-Irlen decrease as they get older.  For others, the condition is with them for life.

There is no cure at present, but the symptoms can often be reduced and sometimes eliminated by using a coloured overlay or coloured lenses.  The colour required to minimise symptoms varies from one person to the next so it is important that you try a range of different colours.

The optimum colour can also be different for overlays and tinted lenses and can vary over time so it is worth rechecking from time to time.

Coloured overlays are rectangles of thin coloured plastic. Coloured overlays are designed to be placed over a page of a book or any other written material.

Coloured overlays are available from a number of companies. The ReadEZ overlays are available in 12 colours (a wider choice than all other suppliers). The colour and saturation of each overlay has been carefully selected by a team of vision scientists. The overlays are made of durable acetate and come in A5 sheets making them ideal for use with books and pages of any size.

Coloured overlays are great for reading but of course you cannot write through them! Overlays are also no good for reading from the whiteboard or looking at a computer or tablet screen.

This is where the ReadEZ clip-ons come in. If you wear glasses, the clip-ons simply clip over the spectacle frame and you can enjoy the benefits of your preferred colour whatever you are doing.

The ReadEZ clip-ons are avilable in the same 12 colours as the overlays although the optimum colour can be different for lenses and overlays.

Professor Thomson invented the computerised Test Chart in the mid-90s. Since then it has been installed in over 6000 consulting rooms in the UK alone including the eye departments in most major eye hospitals, the clinics in all the major Optometry and Orthoptics University Departments as well as thousands of Optical practices.

Others companies have copied the concept but without the research pedigree and experience, few come close to matching the range of features or ease of use of the Thomson Test Charts.

We also pride ourselves on our after-sales support.  We are alway here to help.

Test Chart XPert 3Di is designed for Optometrists, Orthoptists and Opthalmologists who require the full range of charts, binocular vision tests, refraction stimuli and advance vision assessment tools.

Test Chart LITE is designed for enviroments where the maine requirement is to measure visual acuity, such as some rooms in hospitals, occupational health departments, diabetic screening units, GP surgeries etc.

For a full comparison of the features of the two programs, look at our features table.

The software can be scaled for any viewing distance. However, a viewing distance of less than 3 metres is not recommended because a) distance visual acuity measurements will be less accurate, b) some adjustment to the distance refractive correction may be required and c) the endpoint to a refraction becomes less precise.

A study carried out by Professor Thomson suggested that measurements of VA and refractive error are more accurate for viewing distances of greater than 4m.

If a consulting room is less than 4m long, the display may be viewed via a mirror. Simply mount the monitor above the patient’s head (as shown above) with a mirror at the other end of the room. Ensure the mirror is correctly positioned so that the display is seen in the centre of the mirror. Measure the distance from the patient’s eyes to the mirror and from the mirror to the chart and enter the total viewing distance into the program. Remember to select “Mirror Optotypes” from the program setup.

No problem! Simply type in the viewing distance that you have and our Test Chart Software will scale all the charts and stimuli accordingly. The chart can be viewed directly or via a mirror.

Modern Flat Panel Displays (FPDs) are ideal for displaying Test Charts.

They are light (easy to wall mount), have excellent resolution and contrast (typically >250:1) and are flicker-free. They are also capable of producing adequate luminance (>200 cdm-2), are remarkably immune to ambient light, have good uniformity across the screen and are very stable over time.

The price of FPDs has plummeted over the past few years making computerised Test Charts a very cost-effective alternative to conventional charts and projectors.

  • Size: A 17” flat panel display is generally adequate for displaying Test Charts. However, if you are using a long viewing distance (>6m) or see a lot of visually impaired patients it may be worth considering a larger display.
  • Resolution: The resolution of flat panel displays is mainly determined by their size. Most 17” and 19’’ displays have a resolution of 1280 x 1024. 22’’ and 24’’ displays have more pixels (the exact number depends on the format). N.B. If you wish to use the polarised mask option with Test Chart XPert, you will require a 24’’ widescreen monitor (1920 x 1200).  If you intend to use the polarising filters incorporated in a phoropter, you are advised to contact Thomson Software Solutions for advice on obtaining a flat panel display with the correct inherent axis of polarisation.
  • Viewing Angle: Modern flat panel displays have very wide viewing angles (i.e. the luminance remains constant from a wide range of viewing angles). In the consulting room the display will be viewed from at least 3 metres so this is not a major consideration.
  • Screen luminance and contrast: Most flat panel displays are capable of producing a luminance of 150 cdm2 or more and contrasts in excess of 200:1. This complies with the European and British Standards and is perfectly adequate for displaying test charts.
  • Screen uniformity: Flat panel displays generally have very uniform luminance across the screen and are very stable over time – much better than the average projector chart!

IMPORTANT: If you want to mount the flat panel display directly on the wall (the neatest solution) check the following:

  • It has VESA compliant fittings (screw holes in standard locations so that a standard wall mounting bracket can be used – available from us if required)
  • It has a separate power supply – some models have the power supply built in to the base unit

We can also supply a wide range on monitors including our stunning 3D Polarised Monitor.

 

For domiciliary work a laptop is ideal. Place the laptop on a suitable flat surface, measure the distance to the patient and enter this into Test Chart XPert 3Di. The program will then scale everything appropriately for this distance and you have your full battery of consulting room tests available. The IR remote control is very useful under these conditions as it allows you to control the program from up to 10 metres away avoiding having to walk to and fro to use the keyboard.

Some practitioners also use a laptop in the consulting room, either using the laptop display or plugging in a separate monitor.

To use the laptop display you obviously need to mount the laptop at a suitable position in the consulting room, either above the patient’s head (for mirror viewing) or at the other end of the consulting room for direct viewing. In either case you will probably need to use the remote control to operate the program.

Alternatively, you can plug an external monitor into most laptops. This allows you to have the laptop in front of you and a second display for the patient to view. This can work well but make sure that the laptop can support the resolution of the second monitor, i.e. if the second monitor has a resolution of 1280 x 1024, check that your laptop can support this resolution.

Laptops do have the big advantage that they take up less room so for a small consulting room this is a good solution.

Usually, yes, provided that it meets the minimum requirements set out above. If you want to continue using the primary monitor you will need to install a second graphics card, a Dualhead card or USB-VGA adapter so that you can run two independent monitors. Test Chart XPert 3Di amd Test Chart LITE can then be dragged onto the second monitor leaving your primary monitor free to use in the normal way.

Yes -we can supply a very neat All-in-one unit known as the Integra. This consists of a flat panel display (19’’ or 23’’) with a built-in PC. Alternatively we can supply a small print PC and our stunning 3D polarised monitor.

We can also supply bespoke hardware to order.

All our software will run on virtually any PC. You do not need a state of the art machine but you may find that the old machine that you have rescued from the loft may be a bit too slow when it comes to drawing the more complex displays. Also older machines may not be capable of generating high enough screen resolutions – we recommend a minimum of 1280 x 1024.

If you are buying a new computer, the entry level specification is more than adequate for the task. Read the section on graphics cards below before ordering. Also have a look at some reviews in computer magazines to find the best value for money.

Yes – if you run a Windows emulation program such as Parallels.

Test Chart Lite and XPert can be installed on virtually any PC running Windows XP or later (including Windows 7 and 8).



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