Many veterans have eye injuries from the service. Headaches caused by bright light are some of those, and the VA has a rating to award disability to vets with photophobia.
Around 75% of veterans suffer from visual problems that can be associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI). While traumatic brain injuries are all too common with veterans, you might be surprised by the number of veterans who also have traumatic eye injuries.
Traumatic eye injuries like photophobia are the 4th most common type of injury behind traumatic brain injuries. The VA disability rating table for eye disorders ranks across a variety of eye injuries. They also rank a whole host of eye injuries as secondary eye conditions that are brought on as a result of another injury.
Photophobia is part of those VA eye disability ratings.
If you or someone you love is a veteran who is suffering from photophobia as a result of their time in the military, you can get help with VA disability. What kind of treatment might be available through Veterans Affairs? What kind of benefits could you get as a result of this disability? How challenging will it be to get help from the VA?
Read on to learn more about photophobia and how it impacts Veterans, too. Learn about the VA eye ranking system and how you might qualify for VA disability benefits.
In This Article About Photophobia VA Disability:
- What Is Photophobia?
- What Causes Photophobia to Happen?
- Causes of Photophobia
- Diagnosing Photophobia
- Treating Photophobia
- Veterans Affairs and Eye Conditions
- Service-Connected Migraine Headaches and Secondary Eye Conditions
- Rating of Eye Conditions By the VA
- Measuring and Rating Eye Diseases
- Seeking Benefits From Veterans Affairs
- Seeking Legal Help to Get Benefits
- Understanding Photophobia Treatment for Veterans
What Is Photophobia?
Photophobia translates directly as fear of light. The veteran suffering from photophobia might not have an actual fear of light. Although they probably don’t like light much because of this condition.
Veterans who suffer from photophobia have a severe sensitivity to bright light or sometimes light in any form. Light can cause discomfort and pain in those who suffer from it.
Interestingly though, photophobia isn’t an actual condition like some other eye problems such as glaucoma, for example. Instead, it is a symptom of some other condition. Often the symptoms of photophobia for veterans are a result of migraine headaches. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) also commonly lead to photophobia.
Scientists might even suggest that someone suffering from a TBI might get migraines as a result of the brain injury. Symptoms of migraines might lead to photophobia. This medical trail is one of the reasons it can be tricky to obtain benefits from Veterans Affairs.
In this video, one of our certified VA disability lawyers explains how the VA rates migraine headaches:
What Causes Photophobia to Happen?
The eye has cells that are wired directly to the brain. These same cells are used to detect light as it hits the eye. Those same cells trigger something in the brain that makes the eyes feel overly sensitive to light. People who suffer from a variety of different types of headaches will often suffer from photophobia too.
Tension and cluster headaches can make your eyes hate you, but migraines are the worst for photophobia.
Causes of Photophobia
There are other causes for photophobia. These include:
- Serious brain injury
- Supranuclear palsy
- Tumors in your pituitary gland
You don’t need to know much about the type of injuries experienced by veterans to know that they are likely to experience photophobia as a result of another injury they are suffering from.
375,000 military members from the year 200 to 2017 have been diagnosed with TBI (traumatic brain injury). TBI injuries range from mild to debilitating and severe. Along with that type of injury comes a barrage of other problems and symptoms, often including a type of eye sensitivity.
There are also a variety of eye diseases that may result in the symptoms associated with photophobia. More on this later.
There are also a variety of mental health conditions that can cause photophobia too. These include:
Again, many of these are conditions that have a diagnostic code and are eligible for a VA rating. While they might not directly address photophobia, there are ways to look at the condition and connect it to other recognized health conditions.
There are some medications that can also trigger photophobia. One notable one is the use of Quinine (Qualaquin). This is a drug used to treat malaria which is commonly given to soldiers in certain conditions.
If you’re concerned that you’re suffering from symptoms related to photophobia, you will want to see an eye doctor. The VA will not recognize a diagnosis from a doctor who is not a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist, so be sure to see the right doctor in order to save yourself some trouble.
The eye doctor will examine your eyes, but should also consider other factors of your health. One key thing to consider when wondering about photophobia is the condition and health of the brain. Do you suffer from headaches? Do you have a ringing in your ears? Do you find it hard to remember simple things or find yourself easily confused? These are all important brain function questions that should contribute to your diagnosis.
The eye doctor might use a slit-lamp eye exam, an eye MRI, or even a tear film to check the health of your eyes. You can have an ocular migraine instead which would have similar symptoms. Seeing an eye doctor for a proper diagnosis will also be helpful to find out if you have related secondary conditions. For instance, ocular migraines cause an increased risk of stroke, while photophobia can contribute to PTSD or depression.
There are a few options for dealing with the sensitivity that comes with photophobia. Treatments for photophobia will include both avoiding the triggers causing the sensitivity and also addressing the conditions that are triggering the photophobia. Staying out of the light is just not a practical solution for any veteran looking to live a normal life.
Of course, staying out of bright light and keeping lights dimmed can help with sensitivity. Many who suffer from photophobia will wear dark glasses to help block the bright light.
Other treatments will depend on the condition that is triggering the photophobia. For example, if you’re suffering from migraines, taking migraine medication may relieve your headache pain and relieve the light sensitivity too.
Obviously, injuries like a TBI, which can be complicated in their own right, make treating photophobia more challenging.
In this video, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about the VA Rating Formula for Mental Disorders and Disabilities like PTSD.
Veterans Affairs and Eye Conditions
Veterans Affairs has a whole system for classifying eye injuries as they do for other medical conditions. Again, because photophobia is discussed as a symptom of some other condition or injury, these eye ratings are important. The VA has both primary eye ratings and secondary eye ratings.
Whether the eye condition being suffered was caused by injury, illness, or exposure, the VA rating table covers a number of eye conditions. These include:
- Loss of the eye or both eyes
- Loss of eyelids, eyelashes, or eyebrows
- Lacrimal gland and lid disorders
- Ptosis of either or both eyes
- Conjunctivitis related conditions
- Corneal conditions
- Inflammatory eye conditions or injuries
- Cataracts and lens conditions
- Retinal conditions
- Neurologic conditions
- Tumors and neoplasms
Conjunctivitis is often connected to those who also suffer from photophobia.
The VA will only rate injuries incurred while in service. The veteran would have to show how the injury caused either permanent damage to their eye or chronic damage. Interestingly, this will sometimes include a scar to the eye. We’ll help you look through your C-file to find a record of when you got that scar. If you were first diagnosed or made worse while in service, you should apply for VA disability.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
Service-Connected Migraine Headaches and Secondary Eye Conditions
Often a veteran has what is rated as a secondary eye condition by the VA. This means they have a rated eye condition but it’s as a result of another condition.
The secondary eye condition might not be a result of direct active duty. However, the medical condition or medication that is causing the secondary eye condition is a result of active duty. Medications that are used to treat other medical conditions can also create secondary eye conditions.
For example, you might be a veteran who suffered a concussion while on active duty. A concussion, rated as a traumatic brain injury, is causing you severe migraines. Migraines are also rated by the VA. Secondary conditions are rated and added to your claim due to direct service-connected injuries.
Rating of Eye Conditions By the VA
The VA has a whole rating system specifically for eyes. They use 38 CFR § 4.79 as the schedule for rating disabilities.
The VA will measure the number of episodes, the number of treatments, and the period of time to label with a rating percentage. This is how they classify the level of the eye problem.
Measuring and Rating Eye Diseases
There are three main measurement tools the VA uses to rate eye conditions. Remember, these measurements must be done by a VA-approved and licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. Let’s take a closer look at the measurement tools.
Central Visual Acuity
Central visual acuity is often measured using the common eye exam eye chart. This measure looks at how focused or blurry the eye can make images from a set distance.
The visual field will measure how much visual area the eye can take in. Does the eye only look straight ahead? Do you have okay peripheral vision, but lack the ability to pick up sight straight ahead? Of course, photophobia light sensitivity can impact how well you see things in the field of vision. Macular degeneration will also affect your field of vision directly in front of you.
This will test the movement of the eye. This test is a part of every eye exam you’ve ever had. The doctor holds up an instrument nearby and then far away. As you follow her movements around in front of you, she will be observing your eyes as they move side to side and change their focus. This will also show if you have a “lazy eye” or tend to be “cross-eyed.”
The doctor testing will take the results of all three of these measurement tools and put them together to get a better picture of the health of the eye. The VA then uses these results to help identify if the eye has a condition that rates for eye benefits.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866)232-5777
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Seeking Benefits From Veterans Affairs
If you wish to seek benefits from the VA for photophobia or any other eye condition, they will use the VASRD (Veteran Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities). This schedule rates injuries and disabilities and helps the VA decide if you’re eligible.
Remember, photophobia is not on their rating schedule for eye injuries. But also remember, it’s considered a symptom of many things that are part of VASRD. This is where a good diagnosis is key.
It’s also important to show the VA the necessary medical documentation of how it’s impacting your life with either permanent or chronic damage. That’s where our case managers come in. They will interview you and work with our legal team to paint a complete picture of your disabilities. We want to prove to the VA that your service-connected injuries make it hard for you to keep a job and that most of your life is affected by this.
The application process can be daunting. And you shouldn’t despair if you’re turned down initially. You can always appeal a decision.
Seeking Legal Help to Get Benefits
Applying for benefits to the VA shouldn’t be difficult. Yet it often comes with loopholes and paperwork that can seem daunting. Understanding the many regulations of the VA shouldn’t require a law degree, yet sadly sometimes it’s just necessary to get a lawyer to help with the process.
You want to hire a lawyer who specializes in working with veterans. Not only will they have the needed empathy for your situation, but they will also know how to handle the rigorous red tape that always accompanies VA cases.
You may also want to hire a lawyer who specializes in VA cases because they keep you up to date on changes in regulations that naturally happen over time. The VA is going to hire a lawyer to work on their side of the case. You should have a lawyer work on your side of the case too.
If Congress passes a law that changes the status of your benefits, we will know about it immediately. An experienced legal team will be able to help you find the connections you need to qualify for the benefits you deserve.
A behind-the-scenes look at who works for you at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm.
Understanding Photophobia Treatment for Veterans
Photophobia and all the eye sensitivity and limitations that come with it are frustrating. It can be an added layer of frustration if it’s also a result of another injury that occurred while serving. You deserve benefits for your injuries after serving your country.
If you’re a veteran suffering from photophobia or another service-related injury and need assistance, we want to help you. At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we specialize in helping veterans. Call us for a free legal consultation to evaluate your case and see about getting you the help you need.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to serve disabled veterans better in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Every case is different, but probably headaches. Photophobia doesn’t carry its own diagnostic code, so it is usually a symptom of another VA-rated disability. It might help you get a higher rating for migraines if it affects your ability to work or conduct a normal lifestyle.
They’d better not! A VA disability is based on the impact on your life, the fact that it was a direct result of something that happened to you in the service, and the fact that you have been currently diagnosed with it. If they can’t treat your condition, they should pay for your disability as you have to live with it. Work with our team to make sure you’re treated fairly, no matter what your condition.