765048 tn?1234585450

Light sensitivity to fluorescent lights

I just started working fulltime in an office two weeks ago and am having increasing problems with my vision and headaches, which I feel is related to the frequency of the fluorescent lighting. Since I've never spent so long under fluorescent lighting, this is a new experience for me. I have spells where my eyes go strange, not fuzzy because I can still focus, but strange because I can't see clearly, like a skewed TV screen in a way. Difficult to describe. After the vision disruption, which in some spells lasts about 20 minutes, I have a headache which can last for hours. When the spell passes, I'm normal again with no vision problems.

I need to know how I can protect myself from this negative lighting environment so I can keep working to pay my keep.

I hear that 25% of the population suffers with sensitivity to fluorescent lighting, which is way too many for any healthy society. I think it's important that we keep incandescent lighting around for those who are made ill by fluorescent lighting.


This discussion is related to Light sensitivity to fluorescent lights?.
93 Responses
Avatar universal
I also have a sensitivity to fluorescent lighting, my eyes get so tired I can hardly stand it.  As soon as I leave the room I'm fine.  I've noticed this for years.   I wear a light pair of reflective sunglasses, and it helps.  If you wear glasses I'd get a pair of lightly darkened reflective glasses for work and play.   I don't so I use regular sunglasses.

Avatar universal
We all just remain untreated and very live live limitted by our situation.  I am unable to be around flourescent lights because they cause vision disruption, dizziness, and after long exposure (especially to the older style) loss of consciousness.  Dr.s just shrug and tell me that it is strange or look at me as if I am crazy.  We can't all be hypochondriacs.
For those who suffer as I do, there are discussions and websites out there trying to bring light to this subject if you google it.  Sunglasses do help.  It is embaressing to wear sunglasses to work or the grociery store, but they do help.  I am looking for non-prescription, u-v protectant contacts in hopes that they will help enough to enable me to finish graduate and medical school.  Good luck to all
Avatar universal
What I learned about fluorescent light is that not only is the 60-cycling is obnoxious (yes) but that the light spectrum that it heavily requires (visible blue) which is responsible for the light's brightness and excites the retinas improving visibility - but is also fatiguing for some guaranteed.  It happens.  It doesn't help to deny it and doesn't let your patients feel as if you are their advocate, as I believe you are supposed to be.  Or maybe ought to be.  

I have had lighting engineers tell me that you have to be 40 feet away from fluroescent to not be affected by it.  Was also told by these people that most lighting engineers are too lazy to do the geometry that would actually result in more appropriate placement of fluorescent fixtures.  One 40-watt fluroescent tube is = to 150 watts incandescent.  I asked a PG&E conservation expert, just in general, how many watts would you put overheard in an office.  He said... "100, 150" and I then asked him why would you put the equivalent of 600 watts (4 tubes as was common at the time) in fluorescent installations.  Not to mention spaced every few feet.  Especially when you are trying to conserve energy?  Why use 4X the amount of necessary overhead light.  He had no answer, but got back to me and said I could not use his quote in the report I was writing.

Why indeed?  Well, using only 1 40-watt tube overhead would create a sickly gray light.  There has to be more used in order to create what would simulate decent lighting.

The result is excessive (for some) overhead lighting and This Is Only My Opinion, but based upon my own experience, the excessive lighting overworks the retinas (of some) which in turn overwork the eye's muscles, extending to surrounding facial muscles and into the neck as well.  

Since it doesn't happen to everyone, doesn't mean it doesn't happen to some and herein lies the problem with medical "science": they only work on averages.  What affects the average person and then operate from there.  Unfortunately, if your diagnosis doesn't fit in with this average, they are wont to tell you it is all in your head.

Clue:  I learned this in interior design.  Appropriate lighting should be task specific, not glaring overhead light to accommodate a whole population.  Overhead lighting should be AMBIENT, not the task.

Once I'm exposed to more than just a few minutes of fluorescent light, I will get eye pain, eye strain, and facial muscular pain.  After a while, it goes to my neck as well.  They ARE all connected, you see.  But the eye pain, one sided, is the worst.  And here is the kicker:  if I am not exposed to fluorescent, I won't get any pain at all.

I do have to be careful with bright outdoor light as well, so always wear sunglasses.  Always, always always.  And taking care with computer use as well.  But the fluorescent? Even the tiny little devil bulbs they are forcing us to use?  Yes, those are also too bright for me.

Sometimes, it takes up to 4 days after exposure for the migraine to occur.  So it isn't an easy, perfect little package for diagnosis.  But that is what it is for me and I suspect some others as well.  
Avatar universal
   Not defending the opinion on indoor lighting- but I am very light sensative to the point that techs have a hard time even holding the eye open to take pics. Indoor lighting at some of the bright stores require that I wear a light yellow tinted sunglass that allows me to see a bit better yet seems to help with eye discomfort. All my light sensativity issues are related to medical conditions and side efects of intense laser surgery.  If you are light sensative you may be developing mild dry eye ( you would know if severe ). Also eye fatigue seems to make the light issue worse for me.  I would discuss this with your eye doc. It is true that many seem to push the light sensativity issues to the back burner because as one doc said " sometimes things we don't see and can't touch are not addressed because it just doesn't hit us like a retina tear "  My everyday pain level was severe if I went outside or even shopped at a brightly lit store- now with two pair of glasses It is much less an issue. If your doc doesn't think your pain and discomfort is an issue simply tell them it is and even if they can't fix it there are ways to minimize the discomfort. ND filtered prescription sunglasses outdoors in sun ( partially sealed if you have bad dry eye )   Lightly tinted ( yellow works for me ) wrap around sunglasses inside and of course prescription so you do not strain your eyes which causes pain as well .

I certainly understand being upset about a docs non reaction to light sensativity- been there myself--if nothing else find a new doc.  If your light sensativity is severe enough you will not find what you need at " supermarket" type eye centers-  Full service eye clinics can usually fix you up though.
Avatar universal
Anxiety,stress etc can also cause increased sensitivity to light,sound,touch etc

Its true that some people may be allergic to fluorescent lights,but we have to consider that millions of people all around the world uses this technology one way or another like display in computer,tv,mobile phones etc & most people are comfortable with it,so when such a sensitivity problem arise we have to look into eye problems,psychological problems like severe anxiety,stress etc etc not just blaming upon technology.alone.
Avatar universal
conzinger, i suffer the same problem. I describe it like being in a dream - is that a good analgy to explain how you feel ???
Avatar universal
I am in total agreement with leamca's post...

I have been undergoing extensive testing for 2 weeks now to find the cause of a 20 day headache with 5 migraine flair ups with nothing found in any test results.  After being off work for 5 days, new medications prescribed for relief of the pain, I returned to work yesterday.  Just 2 hours in, my headache returned!  And, no I don't have a stressful job like you may have just been wondering.

I had my Carotid Arteries checked today by way of ultrasound and am currently awaiting for the results to come back.  The technician did tell me that my brain is getting blood flow to both sides and all looked good to her but will need to wait for Cardiologist findings to rule out any plaque build up that could be causing pressure in the vessels.

After returning from the Dr's. today, I started researching flourescent light sensitivity, because I had told him the lights at work were recently changed and seemed much brighter now and when he turned the light off in the office, my squinting was much less than when they were on.  What I found today was that a study was done last year that found people suffer more illnesses when exposed to flourescent lighting than incandescent lighting.  Even the "mini" bulbs can put off what is referred to by scientists as "dirty" energy... almost as much as the "tube" type flourescent bulbs.  When compared side by side the "mini" flourescent gave off close to 4 times the "dirty" energy that incandescent lighting put off. The GS units (dirty energy) was only 65 from the old style incandescent bulbs compared to 298 GS units from the Mini flourescent.  When "dirty" energy was removed from the homes of people suffering illnesses caused or triggered by it, they showed signs of improvement, almost instantly!  I myself am going back to incandescent lighting today because I feel the savings from the new bulbs could never equal the savings I will be making to my health by switching back!

It's sad that Doctors from other parts of the World are taking this problem, which affects so many individuals, more seriously than most in our own country and then chalking up complaints to vision problems, rather than reading the conclusive results found in the reports of many qualified Scientists from around the World.  Patient complaints made to one's Physician should never be viewed so lightly and given a standard answer with no real explanation or research put into it first.

Just a quick Question for the Docs... Do you always give out the same answers for this type of question no matter how it's worded?  I've seen several posts on this site but worded so differently and they are always given the same answer... "go see your eye doctor".
Well, I did that 6 months ago, got new glasses costing me a small fortune, and now my Dr is telling me that my glasses are probably causing yet more strain on my eyes which in turn isn't helping my migraines... Go Figure!
Avatar universal
I have a problem that is similar, but different. I've had it since grade school, and it always happened in classrooms. Now that I work under numerous fluorescent lights (I can see about 6 from my desk) it happens every day. My problem is this: under fluorescent light I don't squint, but instead the light I perceive gets blindingly bright. So bright that I can barely focus on things and people around me. It comes and goes in waves. The light around me is not changing, but the light I perceive varies in intensity. Does anyone else have this problem?? Also, since I've started working under these lights, my eyes twitch a lot more.
Avatar universal
I'm now 37 years old - and after about 13 yrs of the unexplained misery and uncoutable tests for awful headaches & even worse horrible dizziness & blurred vision, etc - I was recently FINALLY just diagnosed with MIGRAINE-INDUCED-VERTIGO.  And guess what... an ENT dr. immediately noticed that the flourescent lighting in his office was bothering me, and found out that it's a TRIGGER for my headaches, dizzy spells, vision problems, etc!  

I had been suffering terribly at work (an office setting) day after day & year after year, and always HATED my overhead flourescent lights but I couldn't ever explain why... I just knew they bothered me!  So I climbed up on my desk & I unscrewed several of the bulbs around my office to reduce the brightness, and then brought in a couple of desk lamps to sit around. This did make a difference but my doctor told me I should not use flourescent lights AT ALL if possible since we know it triggers my symptoms, so I turned off my overhead lights and used strictly lamps with regular bulbs which made a huge difference!

I since then started a new position at work, and I don't have the option to turn OFF lights anymore, so I had to go on preventative migraine/vertigo medication... and I've noticed now that the lighting is really bothering my eyes daily. I purchased a "MONITOR HOOD" for my computer (cost around $30). Its not just one of the screen covers. It helps with privacy but also does wonders for the light/glare because it goes around the monitor almost like a box that surrounds the screen which blocks the lights from above, and since it sticks out on the monitor forward, it also stops the glare on my keyboard and on my desk too right in front of my PC which is nice!

Unfortunately, there are WAY too many flourescent lights in my space (all around my area not just over my head) so my eyes are irritated & feel dry and burny all the time!! I feel like I need to wear sunglasses at work!  But I do customer service so I can't wear sunglasses all day, and even if I were allowed I wouldn't want to have the conversation of WHY with everyone that I deal with all day long!  My vision is perfect, so I don't wear prescription glasses, and therefore I can't just get them "tinted" to help this either...

I decided I'm going to call an eye doctor which I had seen a couple of years ago (when I was in search of answers about my headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, etc) and see if he can recommend anything to help my eye strain, burning, irritation, etc from these stupid, bright, ridiculously overused flourescent lights!!!!!!!  

All I can say now is - Thank God that I got lucky and ONE doctor out of sooooooooo many that I've seen over the years - randomly noticed that the flourescent lighting bothered me, and found some answers for me, otherwise I'd still be suffering much worse than this!!

I do know how HORRIBLE it is to have a doctor (several) not take you seriously, and not truly LISTEN, and also not do everything possible to help find answers. So I know I was finally blessed to come across a Doctor who did that for me! I wish all doctors would realize that although we're all human, we're all different in some ways and symptoms are REAL and we need answers and relief!
334194 tn?1288289595

Yes, most lights are not harmful to A HEALTHY EYE.  I have eye disease, and my eyesight deteriorates when exposed to bright light, PERMANENTLY.  
Avatar universal
Here Here yes I agree some are sensitive to light Im classic example I had chronic asthenopia in simple terms eye strain when the wrong glasses prescription was given to me for one year I wore these I was also using a laptop it got to the point the eye strain was that bad it dimmed my vision i was on a laptop it freaked me out to the point I had something terrible wrong with me spotlights were around me cause I worked from home.  No doctor found out what was wrong with me I went to numerous specialists I also had awful neck pain it caused an horrendous eye type migraine with muscle twitches and I was sensitive to light until the strain finally came off you need to protect your eyes and you put your health in professionals hand to give you the best care in my situation it didn't happen so I do agree computer use with glare from screen and lighting above and other lighting can affect certain people we don't all come under certain brackets some have good eyes others poor some have other issues like tiredness jobs that involve driving which can contribute to discomfort but I believe overuse of the eyes computers anything which strains the eyes etc or just out the blue lighting does affect eyes how come we cant stare at the sun long hours its bright ok said my peice alison UK
Avatar universal
I can't step in to a super market with flo lighting without my eyes stinging like crazy and then my skin becomes uncomfortable and finally I become drained.

It's been this way ever since my teens and perhaps before but because Dr's told me no such condition existed, I just accepted my eyes were weird. But it turns out I'm not alone.

But while Dr's continue to poo-poo the claims, we're no closer to finding answers.

I've had eye checks and no abnormalities have been found yet still the issue continues.
Avatar universal
I work in an office where my seat orientation faces banks of fluorescent lights overhead. Within about 5 minutes I am squinting and in an hour my eyes are tearing and I cannot see to do my work. In defence of this, I purchased a visor and wear that all the time I'm at my desk. It leaves an indentation on my forehead, but that's nothing to the pain of having the lights shine into my eyes as I work. Thank you to all before me posting sensitivity to fluorescent lights.
Avatar universal
I also have had problems with the flourescent lights where I work since they changed them around 15 years ago. There was an immediate difference for the worse when thy changed from the old flourescent bulbs to the new "more energy efficient" ones.  There was a co-worker of mine who that same week started wearing sunglasses inside because they bothered him so much.  He wore them constantly until the day he retired some years later.

I bought one of the monitor shields someone in this blog mentioned and then attached a lightweight canopy (Krispy Kreme box) to it so I ould sit under it and not have to look directly at the lights.
Avatar universal
I recently developed a similar problem.

My office is very bright and I work at a computer.  When I'm working at the computer, within 1-2 minutes the muscles in my face begin to tighten up.  When I went to my eye doctor she couldn't believe that the strain happens so quickly.  It is a truly scary problem that doctors and co-workers think it is something just in your head.  It made me sick thinking about going into work.

I've had some of the lights turned off in the office and it seems to help the problem.

Avatar universal
I'm glad to know there are other people who understand.  I work in an office setting directly under fluorescent lighting.  Sometimes I feel like I'm "in a fog"...can't see clearly.  Sometimes I get a migraine.  I am sooo frustrated because I feel like people don't believe me.  I've reported this to my Maintenance dept but they don't seem to take it seriously.  It's to the point where I wonder how I can continue to work although I have to...don't know what to do!

Avatar universal
Older types of fluorescent lightings can induce epilepsy type of reaction to some individuals. Consider changing the lightings to the high frequency w/out magnetic ballst type of flourescent lightings.
Avatar universal
It's a common problem in workspaces, especially in ones converted from a previous use to a primarily business/corporate/computer use.

At a previous company, we moved to an entirely new building. There was an overkill of overhead fluorescents, that the entire team complained of screen glare and inability to focus on the screen. We asked the building owners to take out some of the tubes to bring down the brightness, but they refused due to safety standards and insurance, fearing a lawsuit if someone fell due to inadequate lighting. So some got creative and attached posterboards to clips to hang over the monitor/cubicle and behind their chair. It was only a bandaid solution. I eventually left mainly due to the inability to be comfortable at work.

I've worked with computers for nearly two dozen years now. Light sensitivity is a huge issue with me.
Avatar universal
Some suggestions:

1. Find a workstation where the lighting above is behind you rather than in front of you.

2. Remove the tubes above your workstation. Removing a tube or two will not affect the general brightness of the office. Office lighting tend to be a bit bright to maintain certain level of illumination, though they can be a bit overkill.

3. Replace the fluorescent lights with LED lights. Its save more energy than flourescent lights.
1417546 tn?1282146618
In my opinion, the best idea would be to retrofit your fluorescent lights, which means changing the magnetic ballasts that have a lower frequency (a lower frequency means that the light will flicker more slowly). Replace the magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts that these days basically eliminate light flicker. When you replace a magnetic ballast with an electronic one, you must replace the lamps, or bulbs. Magnetic ballasts use a T12 fluorescent bulb, and electronic ballasts require a newer, T8(recomend) or T5(don't recomend) bulbs. Sometimes, changing the light color or color rendering index (CRI) may effect things in a good way. The light color is measured in Kelvin temperature--the lower the number, the more red, or more yellow the light will be, and the higher the temperature, the bluer, or whiter the light will be. Changing the CRI basically means that the colors in the room are going to be truer as the CRI number goes up (which is good for the eyes). I usually recomend somewhere around 4100k color for office environments, which is kind of in the middle of the spectrum, and and 840 CRI. If there's windows in the office, light harvesting can be used to ease the fluorescent light intensity. Light harvesting will dim the lights as it gets brighter outside (wal-mart does this).

Matt Versteeg

Heritage Electric, Denver, CO
Avatar universal
Yes, take your reactions to flourescent lights seriously. As a professional researcher, I would add an observation. You cannot prove a negative and people almost never do. People have not researched flourescent lights to show they have_no_adverse effects for_anyone. It is simply assumed. This is not science, it's just faith. There are enormous commercial factors at play. There is a long history of people, including scientists, assuming things that are commonplace are safe until proven otherwise. Tobacco smoking is perhaps the most salient case in point. Of course, I am not suggesting that flourescent lighting is as harmful as this for most. The point is simply that something being commonplace is simply not evidence that it has no adverse effects.

I get twitches/spasms in the eyelids, then strained vision, eventually fatigue and general feeling of strain and malaise. It's utterly predictable--I can take about an hour in flourescent lighting before the effects become strong, then they escalate quite dramatically. I only need a relatively short break to come back to normal, provided I don't stay in an enironment in which the light is all from a flourescent source for 3 hrs or more, roughly. Fortunately, I don't get migranes, though it is a very predictable reaction that ranges from difficult to endure through to extreme stress and strain on my nervous system.

Avatar universal
I also have begun to have severe eye strain and migraines when looking at a computer all day under fluorscent lights. This is especially aggrevated by the window with bright light coming in all morning, no matter how much I block it from my screen.  My eyes have been tested normal and this does not happen to me any time or any where else.  I changed by word processing screen to a gray vs white background, which helped some. Our electrician told me there are red fluorescent lights to replace the bright white ones that are now recommended for offices. I'm going to check that out. I also am getting an anti-glare screen to make my screen darker, even though it is already anti-glare. Short of turning off all the lights and putting darker shades on our office's windows, that's all I can do. Turning off the lights does help a little.
Avatar universal
I'll try to keep this short and concise as there's a ton of reading required and that doesn't help we who suffer from the use of the infernal PC and fluorescent lighting.
I was (mis) diagnosed with Benign Positional Proximital Vertigo when sudden onset of dizziness took over my life. For those that don’t know simply put that’s a problem with the balance organs in the inner ear.
I also started to get migraines on a very regular basis, not suffered since childhood.

I think the ‘experts’ are all wrong, and yes I had the eyes tested, the ct, mri, and any other test and machine induced intrusion carried out with the result….. B.P.P.V.

Then I went on the net.
After A LOT of work I came to a few conclusions……

Suggestions from the web are to turn your monitor back light down as low as you can and still be able to read the screen. If you do it at night you'll find it might be too dull during the day.
Change all fonts on the net browser and outlook express-e-mail, word docs etc to Verdana (designed for pc 's).
Go on line and look up Microsoft's 'clear type tuning' and adjust your monitor view accordingly.
Increase all font settings to medium or higher (larger).
I also changed the screen for an LED back lit model (now very reasonably priced compared to a few years back).

Migraines cleared up within a few weeks with the exception of one in 6 months NOT 1 a week or more……

I did A LOT more internet browsing and removed ALL modern power saving fluorescent lighting from my home and replaced it with power saving Halogen bulbs, now made to replace the old style light bulb and just as good if not better light than either of the other types.

I also now do this on a daily basis, without fail …….

Eye exercises

Look up and down 20 times. Start slowly at first, then speed up.

Look from one side to the other 20 times. Start slowly at first, then speed up.

Hold up one finger at arm's length. Focus on it. Move it slowly in towards you and out again 20 times.

Head exercises

With your eyes open, bend your head forwards, then backwards, 20 times. Start slowly at first, then speed up.

With your eyes open, turn your head from side to side 20 times. Start slowly at first, then speed up.

As the dizziness improves, repeat the head exercises with your eyes closed.

Sitting exercises

Shrug your shoulders 20 times.

Turn your shoulders to the right and left 20 times.

From the sitting position, bend down and pick up objects from the floor, and sit back up again. Repeat 20 times.

Standing exercises

Move from sitting to standing up, and back again, with your eyes open, 20 times.

Repeat with eyes closed.

Throw a small ball from one hand to the other, above eye level, 20 times.

Throw the ball from hand to hand at knee level, 20 times.

Turn around 360 degrees on the spot, eyes open.

Repeat with eyes closed.

As vertigo lessens, speed up.

Moving about exercises (special caution advised)

Walk across the floor with your eyes open 20 times.

Repeat with eyes closed.

Walk up and down a slope with your eyes open 20 times.

Repeat with eyes closed.

Walk up and down steps 20 times with your eyes open.

Repeat with eyes closed.

Any game or exercise that involves stooping, turning, bending, stretching and hand-eye coordination - for example bowling, tennis - is good for improving your balance.

After 6 weeks my vertigo has almost disappeared, I still get odd spells where it’s bad but no longer days and days with constant headaches.
I must add I no longer go into stores which use fluorescent light if I can avoid it (my long suffering wife will do so for me). If I do have to I am in and out FAST!

Ok, so sometimes I think it’s all in my head (NO pun intended!) until recently. Feeling SO much better I went to a friends for our weekly poker night and (with their understanding) replaced the horrible overhead ‘power saving’ fluorescent with a bulb I brought along for just such an evening having decided I had lost enough money due to onset of headaches during the evening games!
Yes an improvement, for a while. After about an hour the familiar feelings began to creep into my head and a depression took over. I guessed I was wrong after all.

I then noticed a small table lamp within reach with a long shade on it. I asked if it was a ‘power saving’ fluorescent. It was. I had no idea, couldn’t see the bulb and assumed it was a regular bulb all these weeks thinking no one uses the ‘power saving’ fluorescent in a table lamp. I turned it off.
Within an hour my head began to clear and by the time we left for home I was nearly back to ‘normal’. We still lost!

So if it is all in the mind I am a clairvoyant!

My dizziness/vertigo continues to abate as do my headaches and I work VERY hard at avoiding all ‘power saving’ fluorescent, even refusing to visit with friends if they have them and won’t turn them off.

If this helps anyone then I feel I have given something back for all the help the internet and NOT the Doctors has given me this year.
Good luck and don’t stop searching, there is an answer out there but you will need to believe in yourself and do what is required to achieve some respite from these infernal devices.
P.S. I now have a not inconsiderable cost changing recently purchased flat screen TV’s (back lit by ‘power saving’ fluorescent) for the new models that are now LED backlit. I wonder why ‘they’ are changing the way they light TV monitors so soon after the launch of flat screens……………..one reason put out there is the new LED are even better at saving energy, right.
thank you - this sounds just like me, I am so grateful to read your advice
Avatar universal
Incandescent, Halogen, Vapour light bulbs produces much more heat energy than Fluorescent bulbs and its harmful to use these other bulbs for close up works.
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