This podcast was produced in partnership with Transitions Optical.
How many times a day are you bothered by light? For millions of Americans, the answer is quite frequently! On today’s podcast, we discuss one of the most common ocular complaints our patients suffer from: light sensitivity. Our guests are Dr. Danielle Richardson, is an optometrist practicing in sunny Los Angeles, California, and Pete Hanlin, a practicing optician for 15 years and now the Senior Director of Professional Solutions for Essilor.
What is Light Sensitivity?
Hanlin describes light sensitivity as “any time a person experiences conditions where light makes them uncomfortable.” Light sensitivity, or photophobia, is characterized by both physical discomfort and interruption in the ability to perform activities and daily tasks. At this year’s Transitions Academy, research results from a survey of light sensitivity prevalence were shared that shows the condition is extremely common. 9 out of 10 people report they are sensitive to light. If that sounds like more than you encounter in your practice, the same survey also showed that patients don’t typically communicate the issues to their doctors. While 90% of patients are sensitive to light, 80% of those who are sensitive say they don’t bring it up during the exam.
Why is that?
“A lot of patients don’t know what light sensitivity means and may even consider it a medical condition that they would need to have been previously diagnosed with,” explains Dr. Richardson. To better elicit patient complaints, she avoids using the phrase altogether. “Patients respond better to asking ‘are you bothered by light?’ instead of asking if they are light sensitive.” When she started phrasing her question this way, many more of her patients admitted they were having issues.
Dr. Richardson has found two different levels of light sensitive patients in her practice:
Moderate to severe light-sensitive patients will use the words “bothered by light” and talk about how bright it is in their office or how they are having trouble with glare from screens or devices. These patients talk about how they have to squint and how they are more dependent on sunglasses than their colleagues, friends or family.
Mild to moderate light-sensitive patients won’t verbalize their complaints as much. She elicits their issues by asking them, “how do your eyes feel at the end of the day?” or “are there times that your eyes are uncomfortable?”
Dr. Darryl Glover stresses that it’s important to get staff involved in using the right language to engage patients in discussion of their ocular conditions. He recommends that staff should be able to talk to patients at every part of the encounter – not just in the exam room. Educating everyone in the office about the right language is essential for patients to be able to understand how the testing, exam findings, and prescribed solutions relate to their own life and needs.
What are Common Sources of Light Sensitivity?
The two most common sources of light sensitivity are the sun and the devices we use, there are many other contributing factors. Dr. Richardson pays close attention to address light sensitivity complaints in patients that she is treating for dry eye syndrome, taking certain medications, and contact lens wearers, especially those who are overwearing their lenses since they are more prone to corneal issues. Patient occupation is also a major factor. She encourages doctors to not just look for complaints from patients with computer jobs, but healthcare workers, students, and anyone driving a lot during the day are also very prone to issues because of the dry environments they are working in and the amount of screen time they are being exposed to in their normal day.
Patients that complain about difficulty with night vision and headlight glare are often bothered because their eyes are being overtaxed by bright lights during the day. Hanlin shares the story of a truck driver that he helped as an optician: the patient had major issues with vision at night but upon further discussion, he shared that he never wore sunglasses while driving during the day. Hanlin explained to the patient that by not protecting his eyes during the day, he was bleaching his retinal photoreceptors so that they weren’t able to perform optimally at night. Daytime protection can greatly improve nighttime performance.
What Solutions Can We Prescribe for Light Sensitivity?
“What patients need is a pair of glasses that get dark automatically,” explains Pete Hanlin. Even when patients own sunglasses, they will find themselves squinting in that interval between manually changing their glasses. Both he and Dr. Richardson prescribe Transitions lenses due to their light intelligent technology.
“I describe light intelligent technology as the lens adapting to different light conditions,” explains Dr. Richardson. “When your eyes go from indoors to outdoors, they need a few seconds to adjust. Transitions light intelligence technology automatically adjusts the darkness of the lens to filter the exact amount of light that is needed to keep your vision comfortable.”
Patient Education Tools
How can you efficiently uncover your patients’ issues with light sensitivity in the office? Transitions offers a short and streamlined patient quiz available online at https://new.transitions.com/en-us/quiz. The quiz helps doctors diagnose patients with the severity of their light sensitivity by using simple yes and no questions. Dr. Richardson uses the quiz while the patient is in her office and then reviews the results in the exam chair to help tie her recommendations to the patient’s self-reported issues.
Hanlin offers more key advice. The most effective way to discuss light sensitivity and UV protection is if the doctor says in the exam room: “there’s never a reason to be outside with clear lenses on.” This helps underscore the relationship between ocular discomfort and ocular health so the patient understands the eyewear they are about to purchase is medically necessary to protect their eyes. Prescribing the lens technology solution – using that word specifically – is an important way for doctors to make sure the patient understands their eyewear is a medical device.
What’s Next in Combating Light Sensitivity?
Transitions® Signature® GEN 8™ is the new generation in lens technology, a lens that is fully clear indoors, and darkens outdoors in seconds. Transitions Signature GEN 8 are up to 30%
faster than Transitions® Signature® VII lenses¹ and fades back three minutes faster than the previous
generation². Transitions Signature GEN 8 lenses reduce how often wearers experience light sensitivity, with 8 out of 10 less bothered by bright and changing light³. Transitions Signature GEN 8 will be available nationwide July 9th in gray and brown tints in polycarbonate as well as 1.5 and 1.67 hi-index materials.
¹ CR607 products activate to a category 3 darkness 15% faster. Claim is based on tests across materials on gray lenses, being the most popular color, achieving 18% transmission @ 23°C.
² CR607 products fade back to clear 2 minutes faster. Claim is based on tests across materials on gray lenses, being the most popular color, fading back to 70%transmission @ 23°C.
³ Transitions Signature GEN 8 Wearers Test, Nationwide US, Kadence, Q1 2019.