Migraines and Headaches Community
6.75k Members
765048 tn?1234589050

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 ???
Have an Answer?
Top Neurology Answerers
620923 tn?1452919248
Allentown, PA
1780921 tn?1499305393
Queen Creek, AZ
1756321 tn?1547098925
Queensland, Australia
Avatar universal
Trinity , TX
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Find out how beta-blocker eye drops show promising results for acute migraine relief.
In this special Missouri Medicine report, doctors examine advances in diagnosis and treatment of this devastating and costly neurodegenerative disease.
Here are 12 simple – and fun! – ways to boost your brainpower.
Discover some of the causes of dizziness and how to treat it.
Discover the common causes of headaches and how to treat headache pain.
Two of the largest studies on Alzheimer’s have yielded new clues about the disease