One day my wife told my 6 year old, “No, you may not look at screens without supervision,” he replied, “What are you talking about? I don’t need super vision to look at screens. I don’t even wear glasses.”
While few of us have “super vision,” millions of people do have light sensitive vision, and whether you’re looking at a screen or doing your grocery shopping, it can be bothersome and painful. Light sensitive vision or photophobia is characterized by extreme sensitivity to light, which may cause different reactions in different people. You might get teary-eyed, squint your eyes, or blink repeatedly because of the discomfort. You might even experience headaches or nausea.
My partner at Axon Optics, Dr. Bradley J. Katz, is a professor and neuro-ophthalmologist at the University of Utah Medical Center. He explained that causes of light sensitive vision (photophobia) may include:
- Acute inflammation in the eye (iritis or uveitis)
- Contact lens irritations or poor fit
- Corneal abrasion or ulcer
- Eye injury, disease or infection (such as glaucoma)
- Eye surgery or eye exams where dilating eye drops are used
- Medications; photophobia (or light sensitive vision) is a potential side effect of some treatments
How does light sensitive vision cause pain?
Whatever the cause, photophobia or light sensitive vision involves a certain pathway from your eyes to your brain. We all know that light is transmitted this way, but what you might not realize is that there is a separate pathway from your eye to the brain that transmits pain. When you have ultra light sensitive vision, this results in the discomfort you feel.
Although it can cause pain, this pathway is important because it can prevent you from staring at bright lights — such as the sun or right into a light bulb — that could damage the photoreceptor cells in your retina.
What can I do about it?
You may want to see your eye doctor and explain your light sensitive vision. Once the underlying cause of your photophobia has been determined along with any necessary treatments, there are several ways you can minimize your symptoms at home, where you have control over your environment.
- Use dark sunglasses when outdoors
- Wear a hat or cap when outdoors
- Avoid using fluorescent lights in your home’s lighting, and replace them with warm white LED or incandescent bulbs
- Where possible, bring in less-problematic natural light
- Control indoor lighting with dimmers
- Control the brightness of screens by adjusting the settings on your TV, computer, phone and other devices
- Wear light-filtering lenses or tinted lenses indoors
Is there anything I shouldn’t do?
Yes! Although people with light sensitive vision might be tempted to wear sunglasses indoors, this can actually make your symptoms worse.1 While it may feel like an initial relief, wearing dark glasses indoors over time can cause dark-adaptation of your retina, which aggravates sensitivity to light.1
Think of dark adapting your eyes this way: when coming out of a movie during the day, what happens? Your eyes are ultra sensitive to the bright sunshine. Even if you don’t have light sensitive vision, this can cause discomfort because your eyes have adjusted to the darker conditions. Wearing sunglasses inside has a similar effect.
So instead of wearing sunglasses indoors, use light-filtering lenses that are specifically intended for indoor use. They can give you relief without dark-adapting your eyes.
How light-filtering lenses can help
Whatever the underlying cause of your photophobia, you may benefit from wearing these precision-tinted lenses. These lenses, with a specific tint called Spectrashield™, are designed to block the wavelengths of light most commonly associated with triggering light sensitive vision. But they do so without blocking the less-bothersome wavelengths, so you can avoid making your symptoms worse.2
These lenses are an easy, non-invasive tool that could help you manage your light sensitive vision and reduce your likelihood of coming down with light-triggered migraines. Since they can be used indoors anytime, you can wear them at work, while shopping, or anywhere with lighting that tends to bother you.
- Photophobia or light sensitive vision affects millions of people.
- Researchers believe light-sensitivity can lead to the development of migraine symptoms.
- The eye has two pathways: one transmits light and the other transmits pain. Light sensitive vision involves the eyes’ pain pathway.
- Wearing dark glasses indoors can dark adapt your eyes, making your symptoms worse over time.
- People with photophobia can be helped by wearing light-filtering lenses to block out the wavelengths most likely to cause symptoms.
If you have light sensitive vision, give our Axon Optics eyewear a try. They provide relief to about 90% of the people who wear them. If you don’t like the product or you want to try a different size, just send them back, we will be happy to issue a refund or exchange. Shop Axon Eyewear.
- Katz, Bradley J. et al. Diagnosis, pathophysiology, and treatment of photophobia, Survey of Ophthalmology. 2016 Jul-Aug; 61(4):466-77. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26875996
- Wilkins AJ, Wilkinson P. A tint to reduce eye-strain from fluorescent lighting? Preliminary observations. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 1991 Apr;11(2):172-5. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2062542