Everyone has experienced light sensitivity at one point or another. But there is a difference between experiencing a few minutes of discomfort after walking outside from a darkened room and dealing with chronic photophobia on a daily basis. We take a closer look at the physical and emotional symptoms of light sensitivity as well as other signs that may indicate light is a problem.
Sometimes when the light hits your eye, you feel it right away. Although specific experiences will likely vary from person to person (and also on any underlying condition), these are some of the common physical symptoms of chronic sensitivity to light:
- Inability to open eyes fully
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Sensitivity to fluorescent lights
- Intolerance to sunlight or being outdoors
- Involuntary and/or excessive blinking
- Excessive tear production
Amazingly, researchers have also discovered that people with conditions like migraine may have additional responses to light exposure. Specifically, they found that patients with light sensitivity experienced symptoms such as difficulty breathing, nausea and also felt lightheaded. And guess what? It only takes just a few seconds or minutes under the light to bring on these issues too.
This is consistent with an abundance of prior research that shows that light has the capability to trigger numerous conditions for those who are inherently sensitive. This means a person with migraine, post-concussion syndrome or dry eye can have an attack brought on by working on their computer...or being around fluorescent lighting...or walking outside without sunglasses...and so on. And ultimately, this will bring about all the auxiliary symptoms that come with these conditions:
- Headache or head pain
- Vestibular issues like dizziness and nausea
- Visual symptoms (blurred vision, eye pain, aura etc.)
- Allodynia and other bodily pain
And that is just a shortlist of the possible added complications of light sensitivity, which will of course vary based on the pre-existing condition.
Unfortunately, the physical pain and discomfort caused by light sensitivity may not be the end of it—there are emotional symptoms from light as well. They include:
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
For years, there has been a growing body of research connecting light sensitivity with anxiety as well as other panic and mood disorders. However, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly the cause of these emotional reactions: is it due to an underlying condition or is light actually the culprit?
Researchers remain uncertain on the link, but they are aware of the implications it can have for patients. For example, a person with light-sensitive migraine is generally at a higher risk for a psychological disorder AND could also feel anxious or fearful over spending the day outdoors or walking into a brightly-lit place. And what is worse is that those with light sensitivity may opt to stay inside or dramatically reduce their exposure to light. This not only can have negative physical consequences (including worsening photophobia), but it also can increase their social isolation and hasten the development of these emotional symptoms.
If you want to learn more about sensitivity to light, we encourage you to read our comprehensive guide by clicking the button below.
How do you experience light sensitivity? What feelings or reactions do you have when being subjected to fluorescent lights or bright daylight? Let us know by sharing your comments below.