• Can light sensitivity from Parkinson’s be treated?


    Question:

    I have Parkinson's disease (a disease of the nervous system that can cause shakiness in hands and changes in speech, among other symptoms) and have extreme light sensitivity. What can be done to treat this? I have been seen by my ophthalmologist and she found nothing wrong with my eyes. I have tried eye lubricants which were of no benefit.


    Answer:

    Parkinson's patients often seek help from ophthalmologists because they are having multiple problems with their vision and their eyes. Parkinson's can cause difficulty with reading comprehension, difficulty seeing, double vision, and uncomfortable eyes. In addition to problems caused by Parkinson's, Parkinson's patients also often have other common eye diseases which occur in older people such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

    Light sensitivity can be caused by dry eye from Parkinson's, but Parkinson's patients can also have others eye diseases as well. Light sensitivity also can be caused by iritis (inflammation in the eye) and by cataracts. Treatment of dry eye, and evaluation and for other diseases will help.

    Additionally some patients with normal eye exams have light sensitivity, and a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses with polarizing lenses will reduce glare and photophobia. Parkinson's patients generally have four categories of eye problems:

    • Impaired cognitive function (difficulty thinking): Difficulty with reading comprehension occurs when Parkinson's patients can see words but can't process them, or remember them. Stronger glasses do not help.
    • Double vision: Parkinson's patients often have double vision while reading. Simple prisms put into reading glasses can make reading easier and prevent double vision.
    • Blurred vision and uncomfortable eyes: Parkinson's patients often do not blink enough. This can make their eyes dry out, causing grittiness, blurriness, and a feeling like something is in their eyes. Their eyes make enough tears but they don't have usual involuntary movements like blinking. Reminding patients: "think to blink" can improve vision without drops. Additionally, if eyes feel dry or vision is blurry, artificial tears used two to ten times a day can help.
    • Other age-related eye diseases: Cataract surgery can be done safely in patients with Parkinson's; the anesthesiologist can assist in reducing tremors and uncontrolled movement during surgery. Eye drops are often needed for glaucoma, after cataract surgery, and for dry eye. Using eye drops may be difficult for Parkinson’s patients so they may require assistance from a health aide or family member.

    Sometimes all you might need to do is "think to blink" and wear polarizing sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat!


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