Man clutches his eye, wincing, with very bright lightbulbs floating all around him.

The Difficulties with Light and Chronic Dry Eye

Last updated: May 2023

Every day I have a struggle with light, but the struggle is always different! Sometimes there is too much light, and sometimes too little. I’m sure it’s associated with my chronic dry eyes.

The issues occur whether I’m inside at home or outside in the fresh air. They also occur when I’m trying to enjoy myself with friends in a restaurant, or trying to survive an appointment with a medical professional.

At home with dry eye

I need enough light to see properly, if I’m reading, for example. But I have to be careful that the light isn’t glaring off the page. The glare is uncomfortable. Then, when I think I have the light just right, I have to be careful not to turn my gaze to look at it. Looking directly into the light really hurts my eyes. It’s quite a process to get settled to read with everything just right. If I get up and move to do something else, I have to start all over again to get things the way they were before.

If I want to watch television during the day, I need to close the blinds to keep the glare off the screen. I bought a new television, but some of its features are wasted on me. I turn the brightness down so far that most shows look like they’re set at night. But it’s not only that. My eyes can’t cope with having light coming from two sources. They are very uncomfortable with light from the windows as well as light from the television.

Walking outside with dry eye

There is no way I can go for a walk without my sunglasses. If I leave without them, I come back. Even if the sun isn’t actually out, my eyes feel uncomfortable. I have good, wrap-around polarized glasses now, that keep out most of the sunlight, and the wind as well. They make all the difference.

Photographs with dry eye

I always blink when I’m having my photo taken and the flash goes off. It’s happened all my life. I spoil the photograph for everyone else by being the only one with my eyes closed. This has happened since the days of school photographs. My eyes just can’t take the flash.

Dining out with dry eye

In cafes or restaurants, I need to choose my seat carefully. It’s pleasant to sit looking out the window but often there is sunlight coming in the window, or light reflecting off the hoods of cars. The latter almost blinds me. With all these considerations, I’m usually the one in the group who is sitting facing the wall. I often arrive early so I can pick my seat. Very boring looking at the wall, but much more comfortable!

Medical professionals and dry eye

I know that doctors and dentists need to be able to see what they’re doing, but do they really need lights strong enough to light up a football stadium? I can’t stand these lights in my eyes, and often ask for additional protective glasses, causing much rummaging in the back of cupboards, often without success.

The dentist is the worst culprit. Her technician said “We only have one pair per room. No-one has ever asked for more.”

My visit to the dermatologist topped them all. I needed intense pulsating red light therapy for a small spot on my lip. With my lip not being very far from my eyes, I was concerned. No way was that light going anywhere near my eyes! I’d earned my “speaking up” stripes with the other medical practitioners. Assertive, but polite requests resulted in the dermatologist’s nurse coming back with a pair of protective glasses (the only ones in captivity evidently) and a hand towel to put over them. I felt like suggesting that they put some of my $1000 plus fee into buying more glasses, but I held my tongue.

Dry eye scenarios

Those of us with chronic dry eye will be familiar with many of these situations. Most of us have to face some of these scenarios every day. A bit of forward planning goes a long way. I wonder how much those light-blocking medical glasses cost? I might just get my own pair!

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