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Last updated March 23, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability among children. It is believed to be the world’s most prevalent language-based learning disability.

What are the other Names for this Condition? (Also known as/Synonyms)

  • Alexia
  • Developmental Dyslexia
  • Word Blindness

What is Dyslexia? (Definition/Background Information)

  • Dyslexia is the most common learning disability among children. It is also known as Developmental Reading Disorder. It is believed to be the world’s most prevalent language-based learning disability
  • It is a neurological language processing disorder that hinders an individual’s ability to read, write, and spell. Dyslexia can vary in levels of severity, but is not a sign of poor intelligence
  • The child may have difficulty spelling words, trouble following rapid instructions, reading difficulties, and seeing letters or words in reverse (as a mirror image). Dyslexia could cause complications such as poor ‘reading aloud’ skill, difficulty comprehending words, slowed vocabulary growth, difficulty expressing oneself during a conversation, and affect one’s social-emotional development
  • Even though there is no cure for Dyslexia, many methods are available to help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of one’s life
  • The condition can range from mild to severe and its prognosis varies from one individual to another. However, with early identification and suitable training, nearly 90% of the affected children are able to learn and study alongside other children, in a regular classroom setting

Who gets Dyslexia? (Age and Sex Distribution)

Dyslexia International (based in Belgium) informs that up to 1 in 10 individuals may be suffering from Dyslexia. This implies that globally over 700 million people (children and adults) are affected by mild or severe forms of the condition.

What are the Risk Factors for Dyslexia? (Predisposing Factors)

Risk factors associated with Dyslexia include:

  • A positive family history of the condition
  • Specific abnormalities in brain regions that are responsible for language development and skills

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.

Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.

What are the Causes of Dyslexia? (Etiology)

  • The cause of Dyslexia is neurological and the condition is believed to be inherited
  • Dysfunctional genes affect brain development in areas responsible for language processing
  • Sometimes, Dyslexia can also be caused by a trauma, such as a stroke, or an injury to the brain

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia?

Signs and symptoms associated with Dyslexia include:

  • Difficulty spelling
  • Struggle word recognition
  • Trouble following rapid instructions
  • Trouble understanding jokes
  • Difficulty reading and rhyming
  • Seeing letters or words in reverse (such as the letters ‘b’ for ‘d’, or writing the word ‘animal’ as ‘aminal’)

How is Dyslexia Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of dyslexia will require a physical exam as well as cognitive tests.

  • Typically a specialist in learning disabilities will conduct the following:
    • IQ test - to measure one’s intellect
    • Cognitive processing test          
  • Additional tests may be done to measure spelling, speaking, writing, and reading skills as well
  • Functional MRI scan of the brain may reveal abnormalities in function (in certain areas)

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

What are the possible Complications of Dyslexia?

Complications due to Dyslexia could include:

  • Poor reading skills, especially reading aloud
  • Difficulty comprehending words, slowed vocabulary growth
  • Difficulty expressing oneself during conversation
  • Poor academic performance
  • Low self-esteem, depression
  • Poor social skills and development
  • Juveniles and adults may have an increased risk of suicide (long-term effects of Dyslexia)

How is Dyslexia Treated?

Dyslexia may not be cured, however many intervention methods (administered through qualified and trained personnel) are available to aid the affected individuals and manage the symptoms appropriately. The treatment to manage Dyslexia may include:

  • Practicing reading different text sizes, color, and formats
  • Receiving proper emotional help
  • Assistive technology
  • Books on tape, online education
  • In school settings, ensuring that the tutors and teachers are aware of the condition and are accommodative
  • Engaging in activities that do not emphasize language skills such as art, design, or architecture

How can Dyslexia be Prevented?

There are no known preventive measures for Dyslexia, which affects almost 10% of the human population.

  • Early detection and treatment may decrease the negative effects and avoid potential (lifelong) complications
  • The sooner the children with Dyslexia get special education and assistance, the fewer are the problems they will face in educating themselves (learning to read and write)

What is the Prognosis of Dyslexia? (Outcomes/Resolutions)

  • Dyslexia may be mild or severe; its prognosis can only be determined on a case-by-case basis
  • With suitable early training and effective support, most children (or adults) are able to overcome their reading disabilities (learn to read and write efficiently)

Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Dyslexia:

  • According to the National Institute of Child and Human Development, as many as 15% of the Americans have trouble with reading
  • Under the US federal law, free testing and special education services are available for children in the public school system

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 27, 2015
Last updated: March 23, 2018