Light Sensitivity

Discover how light sensitivity affects your eyes. Learn causes, symptoms, and treatment options to help manage this common visual discomfort.

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Light Sensitivity

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.

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Causes of Light Sensitivity

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:

  • Dry eyes
  • Cataract
  • Ocular albinism - people born with low pigment levels in their eyes
  • Aniridia - people born without an iris 
  • Inflammation of various parts of the eye, such as the eyelids, cornea, iris, etc
  • Irritations caused by the contact lens
  • Refractive surgeries
  • Meningitis - a disorder related to the nervous system
  • Tumor in the pituitary gland (which is in between the eyes)
  • Sunburn
  • Some medications
  • Various mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety
Diagnosis of Light Sensitivity

Diagnosis of Light Sensitivity

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:

  • Slit lamp eye exam using a special microscope
  • MRI
  • Tear film to check the presence of dry eyes
Treatment for Light Sensitivity

Treatment for Light Sensitivity

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.

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Common Questions

Light sensitivity has many connections to various conditions in the eyes, including: Dry eyes Aniridia - when a person is born without an iris Ocular albinism - when a person is born with a decrease of pigment in the eye Cataract - when the lens inside the eye is cloudy Uveitis - inflammation inside the eye which could include the inflammation of the iris If you start experiencing sensitivity to light, please book an appointment with your eye doctor. It often is not a serious condition but it’s extremely important to be checked as it can be a sign of an underlying condition which the eye doctor can diagnose and help treat. If the sensitivity to light begins suddenly or you notice it becoming worse, please book an appointment immediately as it can be a sign of a condition getting worse.
Some people benefit greatly from tinted lenses while others don’t as much. It could require trial and error and your eye doctor will guide you through the best recommendations for your experience with photophobia.
Photophobia or light sensitivity is a condition commonly affecting both eyes. Light sensitivity in one eye is not entirely uncommon. While less common, research indicates that some people will experience light sensitivity only in one eye, or that they feel it more in one eye than the other. This is referred to as unilateral photophobia. There are still a number of symptoms that can result from light sensitivity, including migraines, eye pain, nausea, dizziness, and blurry vision, regardless of whether it affects both eyes or just one.
Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, can be a symptom of several underlying health issues. These can range from simple concerns like a migraine or a hangover to more serious conditions such as meningitis, or even ocular conditions like uveitis and corneal abrasion. In certain cases, light sensitivity can also be an indicator of eye diseases like macular degeneration or cataracts. If you are experiencing light sensitivity, it's crucial to consult an optometrist to determine the underlying cause.
Sudden onset of light sensitivity can be due to a variety of factors. It could be a symptom of a new health condition, a side effect of certain medications, or a result of an injury to the eye. Alternatively, changes in your eye health such as the onset of an ocular disease could be responsible.
Yes, eye sensitivity can often be cured or managed, but it largely depends on its underlying cause. If it's due to temporary conditions like a migraine or a minor eye infection, it will likely resolve on its own. Chronic conditions may require long-term management strategies. It's best to consult with your optometrist to determine the best course of action.
While light sensitivity itself is not a vision problem, it can be a symptom of one. Conditions like dry eye, cataracts, or certain types of migraines can cause light sensitivity. It can also be a symptom of more serious systemic diseases. If you're experiencing increased light sensitivity, it's a good idea to contact your eye doctor to schedule an eye examination.
Light Sensitivity
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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.

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