Coping With Light Sensitivity in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Research examining the eyes of those with CFS/ME and comparing them to healthy controls was triggered by Dr Ian James’ observation that the pupils of his CFS/ME patients appeared larger than normal (and of course many sufferers have light sensitivity). It was discovered that CFS/ME patients’ pupils were indeed very different to controls, particularly in terms of the faster speed and greater extent of their responses. Dr James used this finding to test the efficacy of certain drugs.

Dr Anne MacIntyre (author of ME – How to Live With It) explains there are two reasons for light sensitivity in people with CFS/ME. One is that there may be altered perception by the part of the brain that registers what we see, in the same way other sensations, such as hearing and pain can also be magnified or distorted. Secondly, when you shine a bright light in the eye, there is normally a rapid constriction of the pupil (the ‘light reflex’) to reduce the amount of light entering the eye. In CFS, this light reflex may be delayed or inadequate due to faulty brain circuits or weakness of the pupil constricting muscles in the iris.

What can you do to reduce light sensitivity?

* Sunglasses – Look for a ‘wrap-around’ style, so no light gets in the sides. Consider prescription sunglasses. There are also wraparound sunglasses that fit over prescription glasses. Consult your optician.

* Blindfolds/sleeping masks when resting.

* Several low-watt lamps are easier on the eyes than one bright one, or try flashlight.

* Consider dimmer switches (which can buzz) or different colored bulbs.

* Blinds reduce the glare of the sun without making the room dark. Blackout curtain lining and blackout blinds are available. Tinted window film can be fitted which is like giving your window sunglasses. Darker f1lm can be fitted to single glazed windows but, as heat is reflected, there is a risk of cracking double-glazed windows.

* Use ‘uplighter’ light shades that reduce glare by deflecting the light towards the ceiling.

Sources:

1. “Responding to the Challenge of ME Research” InterAction Magazine, Vol. 29.

2. Zoe Williams, “Coping with Light and Noise Sensitivity,” InterAction Magazine, Vol. 32.

* * *

Action for ME is a national charitable trust, headquartered in the UK, set up in 1988 to do the following:

* Provide information and support services to sufferers and their care-givers

* Fund research

* Campaign to educate health professionals and change attitudes toward the disease.

To find out more about Action for ME, telephone them at: (international code) (0) 1749- 670799; fax: (0) 1749-672561; e-mail: info@afme.org.uk; or write: AfME, PO Box 1302, Wells, Somerset, BA5 1YE, United Kingdom.

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