What Are Signs of Light Sensitivity (Scotopic Sensitivity)?

Light Sensitivity (Scotopic Sensitivity)

Light sensitivity is fairly easy to recognize. When in bright light, for example sunlight, individuals start squinting or looking down. They also develop coping mechanisms such as wearing wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. Invidividuals who are sensitive to certain light waves experience these symptoms also on clouded days. Some individuals do not have problems with bright light, glare on cloudy days, or bright indoor lights. They might experience other signs as outlined below.

Reading Problems

Light sensitivity (scotopic sensitivity) often leads to reading issues. Reading problems manifest themselves in slow reading rate, low accuracy, skipping words, loosing place, frequent rereading, taking frequent brakes, or short reading times. These reading issues are not necessarily obvious to a teacher or parent because children are skilled in developing coping strategies. They include following words with a finger or ruler and listening to the teacher to understand the material rather than reading for information. In quizzes and tests, these reading problems are often disguised as “careless mistakes.” It would be easy to spot light sensitivity as a cause of reading issues by just asking the child how s/he feels when reading and how s/he sees the printed page. For more details please see https://stillwaterokssi.com/category/irlen-syndrome-scotopic-sensitivity-symptoms/

Attention and Concentration Problems

Reading, coupled with frequent rereading and loosing place, is very demanding. The child or adult spends a lot of energy on deciphering letters and words and putting those together so that they make sense. These individuals spend an extraordinary amount of energy on reading and thus their energy only lasts so long. When they run out of energy and their work output is far less than their peers, individuals are often labeled as having attention and concentration problems. However, they may be sensitive to certain light waves and ence expend a lot more energy on the process of reading than their peers.

Strain and Fatigue

Individuals who have to expend a lot of energy to decipher letters and words typically have a slow reading rate and low accuracy rate. They need to frequently find their place again and reread. Strain and fatigue set in because for them reading never becomes comfortable. It is something than drains their energy.

Print Distortions

Many individuals who are sensitive to certain light waves experience print distortions. They see the reading material blurry, the letters with halos, and words moving and even flying off the page. Here is a link to a video produced by the Irlen Institute that illustrates print distortions. The video is about half way down the page:


It is easy to see how reading with print distortions creates strain, fatigue, headaches, and migraines.

Headaches and Migraines

Many individuals experience frequent headaches and migraines, but fail to connect these to the artificial or natural lighting conditions. Artificial lighting has become brighter and brighter over the last decades, fluorescent lighting is almost everywhere. However, fluorescent lighting is so different from daylight (unlike incandescent or LED lamps) that many people experience problems. Most everyone is also spending a lot of time indoors in front of TVs, tablets, computers, or smartphones. Not all brains can easily process the onslaught of artificial light waves.

Problems with Depth Perception

Problems with depth perception are fairly common, but rarely connected to light sensitivity. Instead, individuals are called clumsy. For some of them, the environment is always moving. They try to adjust, but do not get it right every time. Others see more than one ball flying at them and they have to guess which one to catch. Lack of sufficient depth perceptions is also a cause of car accidents or problems when parking.

Solutions to Light Sensitivity (Scotopic Sensitivity)

The solution to light sensitivity problems include a screening to determine whether an individual suffers indeed from light sensitivity. If yes, the individuals receives overlays that filter out the offending light waves when reading. Individuals with scotopic sensitivity also benefit from using paper in a color that they find comfortable. Colored paper can be used for worksheets or note taking.

If individuals want more relief, they can see a diagnostician to be adjusted for filters (worn as glasses) and later contact lenses.

For a free consultation on screening, please contact me at susilavery@gmail.com. Or call (405) 296-0112 (after 4 p.m. on weekdays).

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