Light Sensitivity

Key Points:

  • Light sensitivity is common after a concussion, but generally this improves gradually over time.
  • There are strategies you can use initially to help. Then, you can gradually reduce your dependence on them, as you build tolerance.
  • Talk to your doctor if your symptoms are not starting to improve after 4 weeks after your injury.

"What can I do to manage light sensitivity?"

After a concussion you may experience symptoms that are triggered or made worse by bright lights such as in school or when looking at screens.

For most people these symptoms usually improve over time.

Add to My Recovery Plan 📒

Here are some common strategies that many teenagers find helpful. You can chose the one that you would like to add to your personalized Recovery Plan.

Long Term Avoidance

Too much avoidance of these triggers can make the problem worse over time.

For example, initially dimming lights or using sunglasses indoors may reduce symptoms, however over time, this can actually make your sensitivity to light worse. Try instead to gradually reduce time spent using sunglasses, which gives your brain the opportunity to adapt.

Build tolerance gradually

It takes time to build tolerance to light, so start activities at a level that doesn’t make symptoms worse or bring on a new symptom.

Let your symptoms guide you. Starting activities while you have mild symptoms is okay, as long as it doesn’t cause a large spike. This might be a sign that you overdid it, and may need to take an extra break (e.g. take a short walk, drink water, or close your eyes). See Getting Back to Your Life for more details.

It’s common to experience increases in symptoms as you are figuring out what your tolerance is, but over time, your sensitivity to light is expected to get better gradually.

Screen Use and Light Sensitivity

Have you noticed that looking at screens (e.g. phone, tablet, computer, tv) make your symptoms worse?

This is common, especially in the first few days after a concussion.

After taking a short break from screens, try to gradually start using devices with screens again. Depending on how you feel, this might mean that you need to start with limiting screen use to 30 minutes a day, and gradually increase every week as you are able to tolerate. If you increase your time spent on screens too fast you might feel symptoms increase past a comfortable level. This is just your brain telling you that you have “overdone” it, and maybe you need a break.

Some find it helpful to set a timer, and stop before symptoms get worse.

For school specific strategies, see Managing Your Symptoms in School.

When to Seek Further Help

If symptoms are not improving after 4 weeks talk to your family doctor. They can guide you to access additional support if needed. This could include a referral to an interdisciplinary concussion clinic, and/or a vision specialist (optometrist, ophthalmologist).

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