Sensitivity to Light

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Photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), is a symptom which is reported by sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

Photophobia in CFS

Photophobia is not an eye disease, but a symptom of abnormal intolerance to visual perception of light. This can cause notable discomfort and even avoidance of light. In the context of CFS, photophobia goes beyond mere annoyance as it can lead to severe headaches and fatigue, disrupting daily activities.


The exact cause of photophobia in CFS isn’t clearly understood. It may be linked to the central sensitization that occurs in CFS, where patients’ nervous systems become hypersensitive to physical stimuli, resulting in an abnormal and exaggerated response. In this case, the stimuli is light.

Managing Light Sensitivity in CFS

Management strategies for light sensitivity involve reducing exposure to harsh lights, using sunglasses, and adjusting the brightness of screens. It may also be helpful to break tasks into manageable pieces to reduce the amount of time spent looking at bright lights in one sitting. Regular eye check-ups are also recommended for those with CFS who experience photophobia.

While sensitivity to light can be a challenging symptom for those with CFS, it’s important to remember this varies greatly among individuals. Not all patients with CFS may have the same intensity or even presence of this symptom.


Treatment is primarily aimed at managing symptoms since there is, currently, no cure for CFS. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy (GET) have shown the most promise in relieving symptoms including photophobia. Additionally, certain medications may be beneficial in managing the discomfort and pain associated with light sensitivity.

It’s crucial that CFS patients discuss any new or worsening symptoms with their healthcare provider to ensure they are properly managed and that the underlying conditions are adequately treated.