Read more about Light Sensitivity

A condition called light sensitivity, scientifically known as photophobia, may result in intolerance to light, squinting, or eye discomfort. Bright lights can cause problems for those with light sensitivity, whether they are outside or indoors. High levels of light indoors or bright sunlight can cause pain and headaches in some patients. They may also be forced to blink frequently or even close their eyes completely. Although light sensitivity is not usually considered serious, since it can be caused by a variety of conditions, some more severe than others, it is important to have it checked so the root cause can be determined and treated.

What are the causes of light sensitivity?

An individual's sensitivity to light can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from more benign to more serious. The following list outlines a few possible causes for light sensitivity:

  • Blue colored eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraines
  • Inflammation in eyes
  • Irritations caused by the contact lens
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Corneal diseases
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Sunburn
  • Various mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety
  • Ocular albinism - a condition in which the eye has low pigment levels
  • Aniridia - a condition in which one lacks an iris
  • Lighting with a higher flicker rate (such as fluorescent lighting)
  • Meningitis
  • Detached retina

How is light sensitivity diagnosed?

Doctors typically ask about symptoms, medical history, medications taken, and other information. Depending on the symptoms, the health of the eyes and brain might also be evaluated.

A doctor will perform a variety of tests when assessing the cause of your light sensitivity:

  • Slit lamp eye exam using a special microscope
  • Visual acuity test
  • Testing the visual field
  • Focus tests

In some cases more advanced testing may be required to rule out other conditions such as:

  • MRI
  • Tear film to check the presence of dry eyes

How can light sensitivity be treated?

Light sensitivity can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on what triggers it. If you have inflammation in the eye, for example, and that is why you are experiencing light sensitivity, then it’s important to treat that inflammation. In this case, you will be given steroids and other medications. If you are sensitive to light because of light colored eyes, or because your pupils are naturally larger, there are many sunglasses or lenses with UV protection that you can wear, for example you can wear polarised glasses, which reduce glare and dim the harsher light that enters your eye. Additionally, you can wear glasses that have a rose tint, which also helps to filter out harsher light and makes the symptoms of light sensitivity less severe.  In severe cases of photophobia, prosthetic contact lenses are available to protect the eyes. Patients may feel less discomfort wearing these lenses since they reduce the amount of light entering the eye.

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