Discover how light sensitivity affects your eyes. Learn causes, symptoms, and treatment options to help manage this common visual discomfort.
Light sensitivity is a common condition which generally is considered to be mild, and it can cause irritation due to a variety of reasons.
Light Sensitivity, known scientifically as photophobia, is a common condition which could lead to an aversion to light, squinting, eye pain or discomfort. In the literal sense, photophobia means ‘fear of light’ but this does not accurately describe the condition. People who have photophobia are not actually scared of light, rather they are very sensitive to the light. Photophobia is connected to how the light is processed by cells in your eyes and how it’s transmitted to the brain. Light sensitivity can occur at any age and it usually is in both eyes, but there are certain conditions that can cause photophobia to only affect one eye. It’s not usually considered a serious medical issue, however it is very important to speak to your eye doctor about photophobia so that the root cause can be determined and treated.
Light sensitivity is not considered to be a disease, rather it is a symptom of many possible conditions like infections, inflammation and dryness. It may often lead to severe irritation in the eye as well.
Migraines are noted as the most common cause of sensitivity to light or photophobia. Over 80% of patients who experience migraines have reported light sensitivity along with the headaches. Individuals with a chronic migraine condition may be sensitive to light even when they are not experiencing headaches. When headaches are caused by stress or tension, they can also lead to discomfort caused by bright lights.
If you have light colored eyes, you are more prone to light sensitivity compared to individuals with darker colored eyes. The dark color tends to have a higher amount of pigment in the eyes which helps protect the eyes from harsh lights and bright colors.
Other possible causes of light sensitivity may include one or more of the following:
Some patients complain of high pain levels or headaches when exposed to bright sunlight or high levels of light indoors. They may also need to blink repeatedly or close their eyes altogether. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of photophobia or light sensitivity, you should reach out to your eye doctor right away. Most often light sensitivity is not considered to be serious, but since it could be linked to various conditions, some more severe than others, it is important to be checked so that the root cause can be identified and treated. The doctor would typically ask about the symptoms, your medical history, prescribed medications and other information. The health of the eyes and the brain might also be checked, based on the reported symptoms.
The most common tests that are ordered by the eye doctor to rule out anything serious would include:
If you have intense sensitivity to sunlight or indoor lighting, your eye doctor will give you the right recommendations based on the cause of photophobia and your current eye health. The best way to treat light sensitivity is by finding out the cause of the problem and the trigger. As the causes are dealt with, the problem of light sensitivity may disappear immediately.
If prescription medication is the cause of photophobia, then depending on the case, it may be possible to adjust your medication with the guidance of medical professionals. Some patients have found relief wearing tinted glasses and rose colored lenses have made a large difference to many people, but it does not work for everyone. Avoidance of bright sunlight and strong sources of lighting is another excellent way to deal with the problem. Sunglasses, wide hats and eyeglasses with photochromic lenses are some of the best solutions for people who are naturally sensitive to bright lights. Polarized sunglasses have proven to be very effective in reducing the impact of glares on the eyes. It can also help control the reflections from water, snow or other reflective surfaces. In very serious cases of photophobia, there is an option to use prosthetic contact lenses to protect the eyes. These lenses reduce the amount of light to enter the eye which reduces the possible amount of discomfort felt by the patient.
Light sensitivity can affect people of all ages for all sorts of reasons. It is most often not a serious condition, however, it’s essential to book an appointment with your eye doctor who will help diagnose the root cause and will provide proper guidance for treatment.