What is Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light?

Photophobia or sensitivity to light is the condition of being intolerant to light. People with photophobia or sensitivity to light are likely to undergo discomfort besides the need for squinting the eyes or even close the eyes when subjected to sources like fluorescent light, incandescent light and also sunlight. Photophobia or sensitivity to light can also be accompanied by headaches.

What is Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light?

People with photophobia or sensitivity to light are usually bothered by bright light only. However any light can cause irritation in many cases.

Causes of Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light

Causes of photophobia or sensitivity to light may be due to the following:

  • Inflammation inside the eye which includes uvetis or severe iritis can cause photophobia or sensitivity to light.
  • An open sore on the cornea - corneal ulcer may cause photophobia or sensitivity to light.
  • Eye burns/corneal burns.
  • Corneal abrasion.
  • Drugs like atropine, vidarabine, amphetamines, cocaine, tropicamide, scopolamine, trifluridine, phenylephrine, cyclopentolate and idoxuridine.
  • Wearing contact lenses that are badly-fitted or excessive wearing of contact lenses.
  • Meningitis.
  • Testing of eyes when they are dilated.
  • Eye disease, infection or injury like chalazion, glaucoma, episcleritis.
  • Migraine headaches can cause photophobia or sensitivity to light.
  • Revival from an eye surgery causes photophobia or sensitivity to light.

Causes of photophobia

Signs and Symptoms of Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light

Signs and symptoms of photophobia or sensitivity to light includes squinting of the eyes, nausea and headaches. Any source of light say fluorescent light, sunlight or incandescent light may cause discomfort in a person with light sensitivity. Photophobia or sensitivity to light usually causes the need to close or squint the eyes whereas the other symptoms associated with this condition are headache and nausea. Bright light can worsen the symptoms. The person with dark-pigmented eyes are less likely to have sensitivity to bright light than the people with light-colored eyes. There are number of conditions that causes this sensitivity which affects the eyes.

It is advisable to consult your health care provider if you are:

  • Sensitivity to light is painful or severe. For instance, you have to wear sunglasses indoors.
  • Sensitivity occur with headache along with red eyes or blurred vision or does not go away in a day or two.

Risk Factors for Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light

The factors of photophobia which does not have a direct cause of the disease but appears to be associated in some way or the other are known as the risk factors of photophobia or sensitivity to light. These risk factors can worsen the condition but does not lead to photophobia or sensitivity to light always. Moreover, having a protective factor or the non-existence of any risk factor does not typically guard you against acquiring photophobia or sensitivity to light.

Tests to Diagnose Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light

The common tests conducted to diagnose photophobia or sensitivity to light are:

A health care provider may perform a physical exam which includes an eye-exam. You may be asked the following questions:

  • What time did the photophobia or sensitivity to light commence?
  • Is the pain bad? Is it hurting all the time or just at times?
  • Was your pupil dilated by a doctor recently?
  • Do you wear contact lens?
  • What type of medicines you take? Did you use any eye drops?
  • Did you use lotions, soaps, cosmetics or chemicals around your eyes?
  • Did anything make your sensitivity worse or better?
  • Have you been hurt or injured?
  • What are your other symptoms?

Inform your health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Eye pain.
  • Unclear vision.
  • Dizziness or nausea.
  • Stiffness in the neck or headache.
  • Itching, redness or swelling of eyes.
  • Wound or sore in the eye.
  • Hearing changes.
  • Tingling sensation of numbness in the body.

The following tests may also be done to confirm the diagnosis of photophobia or sensitivity to light:

  • Corneal scraping- Taking a corneal scrape and diagnosing.
  • Slit-lamp examination.
  • Dilation of pupil.
  • Lumbar puncture usually done by a neurologist.

How is Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light Treated?

The perfect treatment for photophobia or sensitivity to light is by way of addressing the underlying condition. This photophobia or sensitivity to light vanishes in most of the cases once the trigger factor is treated.

In case you are undergoing a medication which causes sensitivity to light, converse with your physician about replacing the drug or totally discontinuing it.

It is better to avoid harsh lighting sources or bright sunlight if you are naturally sensitive to light. You can use sunglasses with UV (ultraviolet) shield and wear wide-brimmed hats. Photochromic lenses (eyeglass lenses) are another solution for mild sun sensitivity. These eyeglass lenses automatically darken and block 100% of the UV rays of the sun.

It is advisable to wear polarized sunglasses for brighter sunlight. These lenses offer additional shielding against glare-causing reflections of light due to sand, snow, water, concrete roadways and other reflective surfaces. In a severe case, consider wearing prosthetic contact lenses which are especially colored and look like your own eyes. These lenses minimize the amount of light entering your eyes and also comforts your eyes.

Prevention of Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light

The following are the things that you can do to prevent photophobia or sensitivity to light:

  • Avoiding sunlight after 10 AM till 6 PM can help in preventing photophobia or sensitivity to light getting worse.
  • Wearing dark glasses.
  • Closing your eyes.
  • Darkening the room will also help in preventing photophobia or sensitivity to light.

It is advisable to consult your health care provider if your eye pain is severe. Your eye problem can be cured with proper treatment. Getting medical help instantly if your pain is moderate to severe.

Lifestyle Changes for Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light

Photophobia or sensitivity to light may affect the socioeconomic status of a person by limiting his or her career choices. It is because of the fact that majority of the workplaces need bright lights for accommodating the work being done and also for safety. These patients are unlikely to get employed in workshops, offices, warehouses, supermarkets, storage spaces and markets. Some people suffering from photophobia or sensitivity to light can work only in night shifts which minimize their chance of finding work.

Staying away from sunlight and dimming the lights inside the room can aid photophobes less uncomfortable. Closing the eyes or wearing dark, tinted glasses and also provide relief to the patients.

Home Remedies for Photophobia or Sensitivity to Light

Treatment for photophobia or sensitivity to light can prove highly effective using natural supplements and home remedies.

Most of the cases of photophobia or sensitivity to light can be dealt with home remedies or lifestyle changes; Nevertheless, certain severe cases may need medical treatment or input from a medical professional. You can manage light sensitivity due to a short-term condition by wearing tinted glasses, closing the eyes and by avoiding sunlight. Furthermore, Vitamin B2 present in foods like wolfberries aids in reversing eye sensitivity. Vitamin A and carotene present in carrots supports eye health and thereby manages light sensitivity. l-carnosine and Vitamin E are other supplements which aids in treating more pervasive eye conditions.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: October 20, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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