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Photophobia and Phonophobia

Greetings, I’ve been suffering from light and sound sensitivity for three weeks now, it started with just a weird issue with my eyes focusing and now has turned into extreme sensitivity to light and sound. I honestly do not know if it’s a migraine or not. I’ve tried reading as much as I can about my symptoms and anyone who’s had similar cases. I don’t get the severe headaches but my eyes get sore and my head starts to hurt if I’m not wearing sunglasses. Even indoors, I can’t have light hit my eyes. I thought with these kind of symptoms that there would be an oncoming severe headache but for me it’s mainly just the strain to my eyes and the dull headache from the overload. Is there anyone here that has had this issue? I’d like to know what you’re doing to remedy these symptoms. I’ve tried Advil and excedrin and it does nothing. The sensitivity is so frustrating and it seems to be constant, there isn’t a time I have relief from it. I have two appointments with neurologists, one is a migraine specialist. I will share what I can with the forum if it will benefit anyone going through what I am going through.

  1. Hello! That's great that you have several appointments coming up, including with a headache specialist. Hopefully they can help you figure out some things to try that might get this to stop. Photophobia and phonophobia are both symptoms that often go along with migraine, and a headache doesn't always have to be present. People with migraine disease tend to be more sensitive to light and sound in between attacks than the general population. Rarely, you get a case where someone is chronically photophobic or phonophobic.

    How soon is your doctor's appointment? That would be the biggest thing you can do at this point. I happen to be sort of an extreme case (severe chronic photophobia and phonophobia) but some measures you can take in the meantime would be to try to minimize your exposure to super-irritating sounds/light until you get in to see the doctor. Try to keep a diary of what sounds are most irritating so you can explain to the doctor in detail. Does it help to turn down the radio? Are metallic sounds or glass sounds worse than vibrating low hums?

    With the light stuff, if it's an ongoing problem, and you feel you want to see someone else after the headache specialist, you might also consider seeing a neuro-opthamologist. There's a list of neuro-opthamologists who are also headache specialists. Of the n-o's I've seen, those have been the most beneficial in terms of understand light sensitivity. Other things you can do are to check out your light bulbs. One of my neuro-opth's, who is an expert on light sensitivity recommends light sensitive people use incandescent bulbs because those are the least irritating (their flickering is perceived the least by the brain.) Natural light is great since the sun doesn't flicker, and doesn't hurt at all as long as it's soft.

    As far as sunglasses indoors, generally the recommendation is to try not to make it too dark for yourself because sometimes it can increase LS, so they make special rose-colored filtered glasses that get the worst wavelengths. The filter is called FL-41, and several companies sell them. Theraspecs, Axon Optics, and Moran Eye Institute Optical Shop are three I know of. They also make filtered sunglasses for outdoors. If your sunglasses for outdoors are polarized, that's good. If they aren't, get some polarized sunglasses. They'll cut the glare.

    Screens. Screens can be a problem for LS people because they both emit light and flicker. They don't to my knowledge have any adapted TV or phones for LS. There are TONS of computer screen options. Depending on your level of sensitivity, you can get a filter to attach over your existing screen, you can get a LED screen that can turn down the blue and has a lower refresh rate, which makes it less irritating, and they even make e-ink screens that emit zero light and don't flicker at all. One is by Dasung called Paperlike, and the other is by Boox and called Max2. The latter is even a touch screen and can do all sorts of other stuff.

    Anyway, don't want to overwhelm you with too much info. Please feel free to ask any questions.

    1. @GardensatNight

      First, Thank you so much for all the information you posted in response, it's great information to use and also helps me explain certain things that bother me with my LS. it feels like refresh rates and certain lights bother my eyes, too much screen time and glares also cause my eyes to become irritated. Sounds, I can't really explain it, other than it just feels like the volume has been turned up on everything. I feel startled sometimes when I hear noise because it feels louder than what I remember, and it could even be someone setting something on a table.

      So the update I wanted to share overall.

      I've seen my PCP, an Optometrist and a Neurologist.

      My PCP diagnosed me with migraine auras because my sensitivity to light and sound. I told them I would rarely get the headaches but when I did, they were dull and more tension headaches than anything. They also would go away on their own shortly after I felt them.

      I went to see my Optometrist, and I did a visual field exam and it came back pretty normal, I did not have really any spots of concern so this ruled out a possible sign of a stroke. BUT, my vision in my left eye had changed from the previous year. I went from being near sighted in my left eye (-1.0) to far sighted (+.25) and my Optometrist believes this has caused my eye strains, light sensitivity and headaches but told me I would need to see my Neurologist about the hearing issues.

      When I saw my Neurologist, the in-office examination went well, he scheduled for me to get a MRI/MRA of my brain.

      In between seeing my Neurologist and getting my head scanned, I had a panic attack. It was a brief moment where my BP raised to about 140/90 and I went to the hospital. I think the stress and worry about the changes going on had become too overwhelming. I decided after that attack that I wasn't going to stress about the new sensitivities I have now and just try to adapt. I also am now wearing some corrective lenses to help relax my eyes since they've been strained for so long. This has helped greatly with headaches, light sensitivity and eye strain. I still get random pulsating through my head and I still have sensitivity to sound.

      My Neurologist went over my MRI/MRA with me and showed me that everything was normal. No Tumors, no signs of strokes or aneurysms. He recommended that I try meditation and work on stress management.

      Knowing everything I know now, I am going to do my best to just relax and adapt. I will still take precautionary measures to protect myself from my sensitivity to light and sound (like adding filters to screens and changing types of lights and sound I am around) but I'm not going to stress on a daily basis trying to find the cause because I may worry myself to an early grave.

  2. Just to give an update. I am seeing a headache specialists next week, hopefully it'll be to obtain more information regarding what I can do to prevent future migraines and get a better understanding of my symptoms. Since I posted last, I have noticed my sensitivity to hearing has gone down, or maybe I have adapted. The headaches have been fewer and I am able to handle certain amounts of lighting. I do notice too much screen time causes my eyes to get really red, and certain lights will do the same. I am starting to question what exactly brought on the migraine. My optometrist told me he believes my vision changes along with eye strain most likely triggered a migraine, which I find more convincing.

    1. That's AWESOME that you are seeing a headache specialist.

      If you are noticing that screen time brings on eye strain/the start of a migraine attack, then it might be a good plan to consider whether your current screen set-up is one that's going to work for you in the long run. Obviously I am not a medical professional. But the current understanding of migraine is that it is a genetic disease where attacks are brought on by certain "triggers" and doesn't currently have a true cure. Fortunately, there are multiple screens on the market designed for light-sensitive people and to help alleviate eye strain, especially if you have to be on a computer all day.

      1. Latest update 8/29/18

        So final diagnosis is I suffered an ocular migraine with stress related tension headaches. The ocular migraine is what caused the sensitivity and vision change, and currently I am doing a lot better. The sensitivity to light has reduced by a lot and my eyes don't get as red anymore with exposure to screens and light. Progress!

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