Light Sensitivity

Light sensitivity can be distressing for both children and parents, especially after a head injury like a concussion. This article discusses the causes and symptoms of light sensitivity after a head injury and delves into how it’s diagnosed and treated. 

If you’re seeking specialized care for your child in Austin, Texas, consider scheduling an appointment with the SportsSafe: Pediatric Concussion Clinic. Our team is committed to providing comprehensive support and personalized treatment to help your child thrive.

Girl holding eyes oped because of light sensitivity.

What is light sensitivity?

Light sensitivity (also known as photophobia) is a condition where someone becomes extremely sensitive to light, especially bright light. For people with light sensitivity, even indoor lights or the glow from electronic screens can be bothersome. After a concussion or head injury, this sensitivity can become much worse. 

What Causes Sensitivity to Light?

Light sensitivity commonly occurs after a traumatic brain injury (TBI), including mild cases. This sensitivity happens because the brain’s processing of light gets disrupted due to the injury. Even normal light can feel too bright and cause discomfort.

Several factors can contribute to this sensitivity. First, the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating bodily functions like heart rate, can become hyperactive after a TBI, making the body more sensitive to light. Second, both the vestibular and visual systems, which help with balance and vision, can be affected by the injury, further amplifying light sensitivity.

TBI symptoms, including headaches, nausea, and dizziness, often accompany light sensitivity. It’s crucial for parents to recognize these signs and seek medical help promptly. Understanding these causes can assist parents in supporting their children through the challenges of light sensitivity after a brain injury.

What Are the Symptoms of Light Sensitivity After a Head Injury?

Light sensitivity is a common symptom after a head injury like a concussion, especially in cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and mild traumatic brain injury.  

Parents should be aware of the following common symptoms indicating light sensitivity in their children:

  • Eye Pain: Children may complain of discomfort or pain in their eyes when exposed to bright lights. They might rub their eyes frequently or shield them from light.
  • Squinting or Blinking: Kids might squint or blink excessively in bright environments, trying to reduce the amount of light entering their eyes.
  • Avoiding Bright Light: Children might actively avoid brightly lit areas or ask to dim the lights at home or school.
  • Headaches: Light sensitivity often accompanies headaches, especially in cases of TBI. These headaches can worsen with exposure to bright light. ‘
  • Nausea and Dizziness: Some children may experience feelings of nausea or dizziness when exposed to bright light due to the inner ear vestibular system’s involvement.
  • Fatigue or Irritability: Light sensitivity can lead to fatigue or irritability, as the discomfort from bright light can be draining and frustrating.

It’s essential for parents to recognize these symptoms and seek medical attention if they suspect their child is experiencing light sensitivity after a head injury. 

How is Brain Injury Light Sensitivity Diagnosed?

Diagnosing post-concussion light sensitivity involves several steps. They could include the following:

  1. Medical Evaluation: A healthcare provider will conduct a thorough examination, asking about the child’s symptoms and any recent head injuries. They will also review the child’s medical history to understand any underlying conditions that may contribute to light sensitivity.
  2. Symptom Assessment: The doctor will inquire about specific symptoms related to light sensitivity, such as eye pain, headaches, and nausea, along with other symptoms commonly associated with post-concussion syndrome.
  3. Vision Testing: Vision tests may be conducted to evaluate the child’s visual acuity and assess how their eyes respond to light. This can help identify any underlying visual problems contributing to light sensitivity.
  4. Neurological Evaluation: A neurological examination may be performed to assess the child’s overall brain function, including coordination, reflexes, and sensory responses.

How is Light Sensitivity After a Head Injury Treated?

Treating concussion-related light sensitivity after a head injury involves rest, dimming environments, wearing sunglasses, and, in some cases, medication. Resting the brain and limiting exposure to bright lights aid healing, while sunglasses and dim lighting reduce discomfort. 

While symptoms often improve over time as the brain heals, patience is key. With proper treatment and support (and occasionally referred to physical or vision therapy), many children experience relief from concussion-related light sensitivity. Working closely with healthcare providers ensures a tailored treatment plan for the child’s needs, facilitating their return to normal activities with greater comfort.

Finding Relief and Support

Understanding and addressing light sensitivity after a head injury is crucial for the well-being of children. By recognizing symptoms, seeking a proper diagnosis, and implementing targeted treatments, parents can help their child manage discomfort and promote recovery. 

For specialized assistance in managing concussion-related symptoms, consider contacting SportsSafe: Pediatric Concussion Clinic in Austin, Texas. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing comprehensive care and support for children experiencing head injuries, including light sensitivity. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment to ensure your child receives the personalized attention they need to thrive.