Dr. Amy Chang provides neuro-optometric care to patients in the Traumatic Brain Injury Outpatient Program at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.  Dr. Chang is originally from New York and graduated from SUNY College of Optometry. She then completed a residency in Acquired Brain Injury Vision Rehabilitation and Primary Care at SUNY College of Optometry.  Prior to joining HCMC, she was the Neuro optometrist at Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, NC. There she developed the first vision rehabilitation clinic in the US Army to offer treatment for wounded warriors with visual deficits after traumatic brain injury. Together with a group of occupational therapists, they were able to help thousands of soldiers recover and return to duty. Through lectures, papers and a recently published book, she enjoys educating other optometrists serving wounded soldiers throughout the US and abroad.

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Light sensitivity is a very common symptom that people have after a traumatic brain injury. It may just be a mild annoyance for some people and others, it may limit them from doing things outdoors or even affect them indoors.   For some people light sensitivity resolves in a few days or weeks, for others sometimes it may persist for months or years.   It goes without saying that you should seek the help of a vision specialist ( a developmental or neuro optometrist) if you continue to experience these symptoms.   Below I will discuss some things you can do yourself to deal with your light sensitivity.

  1. Sunglasses – polarized lenses are especially helpful as they decreases the amount of light entering the eyes without significantly changing the color. I strongly encourage my patients to wear them outdoors only. Studies have shown that wearing dark sunglasses indoors can actually prolong light sensitivity, or make it worse, as you adapt to the lenses.
  2. For indoor lighting, the color temperature of your light bulbs is important. The warmer (yellow-orange) colors tend to be more soothing, while the cooler (blue-white) colors tend to be more irritating. Also fluorescent lighting tends to be more bothersome, switching to incandescent or LED bulbs may also help.
  3. Computer app : https://justgetflux.com. A lot of my patients are bothered by the light coming off of the computer screen, the app on this page will change your computer screen to be more similar to natural lighting (think warmer color temperature)
  4. Computer screen overlays : irlen.com, this company produces colored sheets that can be placed over reading materials or a computer monitor and it can help alleviate symptoms related to light sensitivity. There are many different colored sheets so the best idea is to find an irlen testing center. They also have an “app” that you can download.

These are tips to help you function with your light sensitivity. If your light sensitivity is coming from an underlying visual dysfunction, treating that may help improve your light sensitivity. To find a developmental or neuro optometrist, please check out the College of Optometrist in Vision Development and the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association.

Photo by Exploratorium via Flickr