Headaches and light sensitivity are two common conditions that you most likely have heard of before or experienced firsthand. Although there are some easy fixes for these uncomfortable and sometimes inconvenient conditions, it can be stressful if they continue to occur without a known or obvious explanation. While these two bothersome ailments can be caused by a number of different factors, they may be the result of an underlying vision issue, such as keratoconus.

Common symptoms of this progressive condition often include blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night, and frequent changes in lens prescriptions. However, people living with keratoconus may also experience headaches and light sensitivity. If you or a loved one are struggling with these symptoms, there are ways to help! Keep reading to learn more about potential causes, how you can find relief, and firsthand experiences of others.

What Causes These Symptoms?

Sometimes when you experience a headache or light sensitivity, it can be due to an early-morning glare, not drinking enough water, or an aura accompanying a migraine. However, these symptoms can also be associated with certain medical conditions, such as keratoconus, or lifestyle choices. Below, we’re explaining these symptoms and what causes them:

Headaches

A headache is a common condition that causes pain and discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck, and it is estimated that 7 in 10 people have at least one headache each year. Headache pain can range from mild to severe, making it difficult to concentrate at work and with other daily activities. Approximately 45 million Americans have severe headaches that can be disabling. One common cause of headaches is eye strain, which occurs when your eyes get tired from using them intensely for a long time, such as reading or looking at a computer.

Frequent headaches may also be caused by using an inaccurate lens prescription. Since keratoconus is a progressive condition that can make it difficult to see and focus, many people find that their lens prescription changes frequently and wearing an inaccurate prescription tends to cause headaches. Some additional causes include acute sinusitis, dehydration, dental problems, the flu, and more.

Light Sensitivity

Light sensitivity, also referred to as photophobia, is a condition in which bright lights hurt your eyes. This is a common symptom associated with numerous conditions, from minor irritations to serious medical emergencies. Mild cases of light sensitivity may cause you to squint while outside or in a brightly lit room. In more severe cases, this condition can cause pain when your eyes are exposed to nearly any type of light. Since keratoconus occurs when your cornea thins and gradually bulges outward, the cone-shaped cornea can cause sensitivity to light and glare, as well as blurred vision. Other common causes of light sensitivity include migraine, conjunctivitis, and dry eye syndrome.

How to Alleviate These Symptoms

If you were recently diagnosed with keratoconus and find yourself experiencing headaches and light sensitivity, don’t stress. There are various ways – both short and long-term – to help alleviate these ailments. Try the following to help ease your symptoms:

  • HeadachesTo improve headaches associated with eye strain, try giving your eyes a well-deserved rest. You can do this by taking regular breaks and utilizing the “20-20-20” rule – every 20 minutes, rest your eyes by looking at something at least 20 feet away, for a minimum of 20 seconds. Another option to alleviate headaches is to take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Some other methods include resting in a quiet, dark room, applying a hot or cold compress to your head or neck, and limiting caffeine intake.
  • Sensitivity to LightIf you’re looking for some quick relief from light sensitivity, try staying away from sunlight and keeping lights dimmed to make your symptoms more manageable. Closing your eyes and covering them with dark, tinted glasses, or wearing sunglasses outside can also bring much-needed relief.

If you’re already experiencing vision issues, you may want to see your doctor to confirm that you are wearing the right lens prescription. Since frequent changes in prescriptions is a common keratoconus symptom, many people may unknowingly be wearing the wrong prescription. If you are experiencing headaches and light sensitivity, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor to ensure you are wearing the correct prescription.

While quick-fixes and tips to help alleviate headache and light sensitivity symptoms can certainly help in the moment, if you have keratoconus it’s important to treat the underlying condition. This can help to reduce symptoms and improve your overall quality of life. There are a number of keratoconus treatments available, including iLink™ FDA-approved cross-linking for progressive keratoconus, eyeglasses or soft contacts, Rigid Gas Permeable lenses, Intacs, or a corneal transplant.

The Living with KC Community Shares Their Experiences

Members of the Living with KC community have shared their experiences with headaches both before and after being diagnosed with keratoconus. Specifically,  Baylen and Luke discussed how the headaches they experienced from their condition affected their daily lives and schooling, and how properly treating the condition helped alleviate their symptoms.

Baylen: In 5th grade, Baylen began wearing a contact lens in his left eye to correct his nearsightedness. While the contact seemed to manage his vision issues, he soon began experiencing chronic headaches that impacted his ability to function in and out of school. The debilitating pain often forced him to leave school early and left him sick on the couch at home. After Baylen was diagnosed with keratoconus, his parents were relieved to finally know exactly what was going on with their son’s vision and headaches. Now that his progressive keratoconus has been treated with iLink FDA-approved cross-linking, Baylen is back to participating in the activities he enjoys, including basketball and track.

Luke: Luke started complaining of general vision issues, including blurry and double vision, in the 4th grade. Despite being prescribed glasses, his vision continued to progressively worsen, and he had to keep getting his prescription updated. When Luke entered high school, he began to experience debilitating headaches that would force him to take frequent breaks from his activities. Although some of his teachers thought he was making them up to avoid work or taking tests, they persisted at home. In 2020, after the mystery was solved and Luke was diagnosed with progressive keratoconus, he decided to undergo iLink FDA-approved cross-linking. Now that his keratoconus has been treated, Luke is happy to be back enjoying the activities he loves, such as playing football and spending quality time with his family and friends.

Leaving Headaches and Light Sensitivity Behind

Now that you have more information on headaches and light sensitivity, including why you may be experiencing these symptoms and how to treat them, hopefully you are able to find relief. Remember, your future is bright, and it doesn’t need to include frequent headaches and light sensitivity.

If you have any additional questions or concerns about the symptoms you’re experiencing, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. Visit our website to learn more about keratoconus and available treatment options or to find a specialist near you. Don’t forget to follow Living with KC on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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