Photophobia: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What Is Photophobia?

Also known as light sensitivity, photophobia is an intolerance to light. It can be direct sunlight or artificial light sources like lamps and street lights.

When someone is light sensitive, both natural and artificial light can cause feelings of nausea and headaches, but the symptoms are not limited to just these. In fact, they also include:

  • Stiffness in the neck.
  • Itching or redness around the eyes.
  • Numbness in certain areas of the body. 
  • And even changes in hearing.

People with light-coloured eyes may find they experience far worse symptoms of photophobia than those with darker-coloured eyes, as they have less pigment to protect their eyes from the light. This is especially true when exposed to particularly bright light, like on a summer’s day when there’s no cloud cover to lessen the intensity of the glare.

What Causes Light Sensitivity?

Light sensitivity has a wide range of possible causes. It can affect people at any age and the severity varies based on the person. Some causes of photophobia include:

  • People who are prone to migraines will often experience photophobia.
  • People with conditions such as retinal detachment, corneal abrasion (a scratched cornea) and uveitis (the inflammation of the uvea), experience light sensitivity. 
  • Burns and inflammation of the eye, in general, can sometimes result in light sensitivity.
  • Ulcers on the eye can also cause photophobia, as can eye infections or injury.
  • People who wear poorly fitting contact lenses (or people who wear contact lenses for longer than prescribed) often experience irritation that can lead to the development of light sensitivity. 
  • People who’ve been through refractive eye surgery can also begin having problems with bright light.
  • Photophobia can also be a side effect of some medications, including some antihistamines, acne medications, and blood pressure tablets. If this is the case, consult your physician about changing your medication. 
  • Meningitis and other disorders affecting the central nervous system can cause sensitivity to light, as can rabies, mercury poisoning, conjunctivitis and albinism.

What Treatment Options Are There For Photophobia?

If you find yourself regularly suffering from light sensitivity, you can take several simple steps to lessen the effects of the symptoms. For instance, avoid harsh light as much as possible, and when in bright sunlight, always safeguard your eyes by lenses with proper UV protection. Anti-glare and photochromic lenses like Crizal and Transitions respectively, can prevent glare and works for both indoor and outdoor light.

Other than wearing protective glasses and staying out of bright sunlight, other easy and immediate solutions can include closing your eyes for several seconds or minutes, or darkening the room you’re in by using a dimmer switch.

The best way to treat the photophobia symptoms is to identify the underlying cause. Often, the light sensitivity will diminish once the issue has been addressed.

Sensitive to bright lights?

Visit your nearest optician and start protecting your eyes today

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