Do flickering / flashing lights bother you?

alisandeJune 14, 2008

I have a real problem with flickering or flashing lights. My daughter Jill was the same way, but not my other kids. It has something to do with brain waves, I think, but I really don't understand basis for it.

Driving home with the sun low in the sky, flashing at me over and over from between trees, I have to hold my hand up to shield my eyes. A flickering fluorescent light over the meat case in the supermarket will have me holding onto the cart for support (and closing my eyes). I could never enter a nightclub with strobe lights!

I have to up the refresh rate on my computer monitors. I've even done this on the computers at the library; otherwise I wouldn't be able to use them. When we got new computers at my last job I immediately adjusted my monitor and was surprised when I heard the bookkeeper in a discussion with some other employees, talking about the "terrible flicker" on her screen. It was terrible for me, too, but the other people didn't see it at all. (I fixed hers for her.)

When I see celebrities on TV being flashed by a crowd of photographers I have to turn away. Just one more reason why I'm glad I'm not famous!

Does anyone else share this phenomenon? Can you tell me anything about it?



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Driving with the sunlight flickering through trees really bothers me too, but most of the other things don't.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 8:41PM
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I don't notice the flicker on computer screens, but the other things bother me. I don't recall these things bothering me until I got migraines. Perhaps there is some relationship.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 8:54PM
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Everything you've mentioned also bothers me.

I am prone to migraines and these flickering lights always trigger one.

When ironing a striped shirt or a plaid shirt (some plaids)
I get the same sensation as with the flickering lights.

It's as though little fireflies are flying by.

I don't like it cause I know what's coming!


    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 8:58PM
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Susan - My daughter has commented on the same problem. A few years ago she was even tested for a non-seizure epilepsy. She had to stay awake all night and of course I had to also just to make sure she was awake and then they put electrodes on her and tested her with different lights.
I think it was called a stress induced EEG. Luckily they didn't find anything significant.

She's never mentioned the computer monitors but she cannot stand fluorescent lights. She has described the same problem when she's in the front seat of the car and the sun keeps flashing in and out of the trees. She doesn't like sitting in my husband's study when the ceiling fan is running because it has a strobe like effect when the hi hats ceiling lights are turned on.

She compares it to a motion sickness feeling. She is also sensitive to the lack of natural light in the winter. She was miserable her sophomore year of college when her dorm window faced a tall brick building and she never received daylight in her room.

It doesn't seem to bother her as much now as when she was 12 or 13.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 9:10PM
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When I used to have migraines they were often triggered by flickering or flashing lights. Not quite as bad as you describe, but bad enough! Just sunlight glancing off a car's windshield or mirror would set them off. (I now take propanolol for irregular heartbeat and it also keeps the migraines away.)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 9:11PM
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YES! Let me add that I think flashing cameras should be outlawed in places like restaurants. Seems everyone has a picture phone or camera on them these days. I was out the other day an a group were just taking pics of one another to while away the time. Not to commemorate something just randomly snapping away.

I can't stand flickering cfls,fluorescents or street lights either. I used to ALWAYS get into fights with DH when we went into a certain Sears store. I finally figured out it was the lights. "Light Rage" LOL

I am ok with strobe lights though.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 9:11PM
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Yes, what you describe is very common among migraine sufferers. Even if you don't actually get the headache and vomiting many do, I'd be willing to bet, if you discuss this with your dr. he'll mention the possibility of migraines. Some people have abdominal migraines--no headache, just hours of uncontrollable vomiting. Others have optical migraines (visual disturbances) Some have a combination of those things--or can have one type of headache one time, and another type the next timea around.

I have to be really careful to avoid strobe lights, the flash of light on chrome when I'm driving, glare from the sun reflecting off windows, and I've been known to turn down a side street if I see a police care with its lights flashing. Yes, some computer and TV screen settings can bring on a migraine for me.

This obviously bothers you enough that you posted it here. Do a little research about migraines and maybe try some over the counter meds. Some people are helped by them, some aren't, but it's a place to start. Good luck

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 9:14PM
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The migraine connection is very interesting! Gillian suffered terribly from migraines, starting at age four. I've only had one full-blown migraine in my life, but it was memorable. And then once last summer and once this spring I got an optical migraine.

Actually, I was more curious than bothered when I posted about this. The thing that got me thinking about it was seeing Tom Cruise and his wife on TV being swarmed by photographers. FlashFlashFlashFlash......they were smiling for the cameras, and I was thinking that if it were me in that situation I'd probably be falling down or throwing up. LOL

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. And I figured somebody at the KT would come through with some information. And a bunch of you did!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 9:22PM
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This can be a sign of some really serious problems. I have seizures and the "strobe: effect of passing through trees with the sun shining was the first thing that alerted my mom to the fact I had a problem. I also have problems with flickering lights, some computer monitors and video games. Please see your doctor about this problem and I'm sure he will order and EEG.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 10:21PM
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YES and can trigger a migraine!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 10:23PM
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Remembering those flashing balls at high school dances and dancing cheek to cheek :o)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 10:30PM
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Ann, I'm reluctant to open the medical can of worms with this because I've been like this my whole life and no serious problem has emerged as a result of it. The bookkeeper, BTW, is 80 years old, and she's always been like this, too.

But speaking of seizures, when I had the surgery on my hand this week they wanted to numb my entire arm and give me the drug Versed. I'm opposed to Versed for a couple of reasons, and told the anesthesiologist I didn't want it. Then I asked him why a drug like that (a memory eraser) was needed when my arm would be numb anyway. He replied that the drug they would have used to numb my arm carries a risk of seizures, and the Versed would raise my seizure threshold.

I was floored to think they would have put me at risk of a seizure in a procedure to remove a tiny foreign body from my hand!

They went with a much less risky Plan B, and it worked out well. And now that I'm reading your posts I'm doubly glad I nixed the Versed and Plan A.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 10:34PM
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Yes! Years ago I would have panic attacks quite often.There was this one grocery store that every time I would go in there I would get sweaty,heart would race and my eyes would do funny things.LOL By that I mean I would see flashy things out of the corner of my eye.It had a black and white tile floor and I thought that maybe could have something to do with it but I finally decided it was the lights.I stopped having the panic attacks long ago but once in a while I will go into a store and start having those same feelings so I really think it was the lights that bothered me back then.I have never had a migraine though.My small bathroom has white purple and green striped wall paper and I can't stand to go in there for any length of time.Makes my eyes do weird things.LOL

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 12:46AM
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This problem has been noted in human psychology books. Its usually connected to a particular frequency, the frequencies being different for different individuals.

There is another dangerous effect and that is the steady flashing in your vision of the dashed centerline on the highway. At night, the dashed line becomes the dominant item in your eyesight and you are concentrating on it to aim your car. It can become very hypnotic and cause one to dose off.

There is another phenomonem and that is motion sickness. Automotive suspension designers are aware of it. If a person is jostled up and down at a particular frequency, his stomach may become upset. The frequency is in the range of 3 hz.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 2:21AM
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Flourescent lights always bother me. I have gotten motion sick since birth. The light sticks that the kids play with, you know, the ones you break to activate? My kids learned years ago to play with them where I can't see them. The gaurd rail along the road can make me sick. The only time I've ever gotten a migraine was when my BP was sky high.

Right now, DD is getting migraines. She was drinking the flavored water, and had to quit. The computer at work triggered one last night.

Looks like you are not alone! My sympathy.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 8:47AM
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FlamingO in AR

I know they can cause seizures in some people. We have a flickering flourescent light in the ladies' room at work and André and I joke about finding one of us on the floor having a seizure. We've asked to get it fixed, but it's a hard to find bulb and it's taking forever. I just close my eyes when I go in there, because it's that annoying.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 9:11AM
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Oh yes....flickering lights and flashes of sun through objects or sun flashing off of something shiney...IMMEDIATE Migraine! I have to have sunglasses on at all times when I am outside...unless it is really cloudy...and then I usually wear them anyway! I am very light sensitive!

A couple of weeks ago I was in a large grocery store in Ames, walked into one aisle and the fluorescent light was going so it was blinking...BADLY! There was another lady in that aisle and said that what if a person with seizures came into this aisle!?? I decided I didn't need anything that bad in that aisle and got out of there FAST!

Both Caryn & I started migraines at the age of 7...thankfully we are both on good preventatives and are able to keep them under control....unless we are 'flashed' bad!

Everyone thinks I am nuts...but my favorite day is a cloudy day!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 10:07AM
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How do you change the computer screen? If you can tell me, it may help DD, if she can fix the ones at work! She is getting new glasses, had her appt on Wed. We will see if they help.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 12:00AM
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Tami,you go to Start --> Control Panel --> Display --> Settings --> Advanced --> Monitor, and then you'll see Refresh Rate. Most computers are set at 60 hertz. I changed mine to 72. I read somewhere that it's not a good idea (from the computer's standpoint) to go too much higher than that.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 7:32AM
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Thanks, Susan! I am printing this to give her. She has been miserable the last couple of months. She had some in school, off and on, then didn't get them for several years. Now, she's started having them again. Some were caused by flavored water a few weeks ago. Quit drinking them and quit having the migraines. Then got one from the computer. Poor girl, now the fuel pump went on her jeep.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 1:51PM
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Flashing lights, odd opposing patterns, vibrations.

The layout of a restaurant can make me dizzy if it has a lot of opposing odd angles. There is one near here that has really dark grout lines on the tiled floor and the tiles go diagonally, but the tables and booths are opposite. Plus there are various levels, but all the same flooring. I can't even walk to my seat without help LOL. We don't go there any more.

I can feel low grade vibrations that other people can ignore. And it makes me feel ill.

I am also sensitive to repetitive or buzzing noises. I couldn't watch Deep Space 9 or Babylon 5 even though I was interested because there was a background noise that made me nauseous.

Also get motion sick in anything that moves.

Don't I sound like fun ROFL?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 2:34PM
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I have been in dark restaurants with flickering candles in a bowl that I have had to blow out. One waiter tried to relight it and I said no, no.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 3:17PM
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When i was a kid, if we were driving anywhere and I looked outside, like at the stripes painted on the road, I got nauseated. That's the closest I can recall.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 6:27PM
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