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Holiday Lights and your Eyesight

The holiday season is upon us and many will be setting up lights at home and work this year to spread some holiday cheer. British researchers recently concluded people who are anxious to light up their homes are generally happier. For most, they associate the twinkling lights with memories of childhood that trigger dopamine, the 'feel good' chemical in the brain.

Many of us enjoy gazing at bright and beautiful lights. For some, however, light can be uncomfortable and even painful. Eye discomfort can be caused by any light source including the sun, fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs. Here are some reasons why lights, especially bright ones can affect your eyesight:

  • ‍Photophobia - Literally means "fear of light." If you have photophobia, you're not actually afraid of light, but you are very sensitive to it. It is characterized by a need to squint or close your eyes. It is linked to the connection between cells in your eyes that detect light and a nerve that goes to your head. Those with lighter colored eyes have a greater chance of experiencing light sensitivity. Migraines are the most common cause of light sensitivity.‍
  • Anxiety – Those that are diagnosed with an anxiety, panic or autoimmune diseases like lupus have a lower tolerance for light and are at greater risk of light sensitivity.‍
  • Eye Diseases – Common eye diseases like glaucoma or cataracts may also cause vision discomfort including starbursts when looking at lights. ‍
  • Wrong Prescription – If your vision has changed, your prescription for contacts or glasses may cause you to see starbursts when looking at lights. Getting the proper prescription will help you see better.

Additionally, those that have had eye surgery may experience common side-effects that include dry eyes, halos, ghosting, starbursts, and light sensitivity. If you find yourself experiencing more severe symptoms when looking at holiday lights, it might be a sign of a deeper issue. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor can diagnose and treat any underlying causes of your light sensitivity or other vision issues you might be experiencing.

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