A woman covers her eyes with her arm as a giant string of lights flashes brightly around her.

Photophobia and Holiday Lights

I love the holiday season. I always look forward to it and enjoy all the holiday festivities. All the holiday movies, drinks at Starbucks, gift wrapping, decorations, and spending quality time with family and friends.

Photophobia, dry eye, and the holiday season

This is my first holiday season since getting diagnosed with dry eye. It has made me realize there is one aspect of the holidays that always bothered me but I could never put a finger on it until now.

All the holiday lights trigger my photophobia and make it harder to enjoy the holidays. Photophobia refers to light sensitivity and is a common symptom of chronic dry eye.

My family loves decorating for the holidays. We put up outdoor lights and decorations that light up the front of the house and the driveway. We also decorate extensively inside, including our Christmas tree.

Our Christmas tree has a couple of different light options. Plain yellow; red, blue, and green; and altering between the first two options. You can also pick whether you want them flickering or continuously glowing.

When my photophobia was less severe, I could make do with averting my gaze when the lights bothered me. Or closing my eyes for a minute or two. Since my dry eye has worsened, these are no longer helpful option.

Combating light sensitivity

Flickering or flashing lights are especially triggering so my family no longer picks that option for the tree. We also don’t pick the red, blue, and green or the alternating option often as those are triggering as well. While it is not always an available option, I do like to dim lights when I can. That way I can still enjoy the lights without them irritating my eyes.

While I can make modifications at home, going out during the holidays can be quite difficult. I love the holiday atmosphere of joy and cheer but it is hard to partake in it when there are bright and flashing lights almost everywhere.

I have transition glasses lenses and have found that those are helpful in the face of direct holiday lighting. I also try to strategically avert my gaze but that is not always helpful so it feels risky.

I am usually left with a headache or eye strain after being around holiday lights. This puts a bit of a damper on my love for the holiday season but I love it immensely nonetheless.

Do holiday lights trigger your dry eyes?

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