Photophobia: Understanding Light Sensitivity


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Photophobia, derived from the Greek words “photo” meaning light and “phobia” meaning fear, refers to a heightened sensitivity to light. It’s more accurately described as discomfort or pain in the presence of light. This condition can affect individuals differently, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain.

Symptoms of Photophobia

People experiencing photophobia may exhibit various symptoms, including:

  • Squinting or closing the eyes in bright light
  • Eye discomfort or pain when exposed to light
  • Headaches triggered by light exposure
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks in well-lit environments
  • Avoidance of sunlight or bright artificial light sources

Causes of Photophobia

  • Eye conditions including uveitis, conjunctivitis, corneal abrasions, and dry eye syndrome
  • Migraine headaches
  • Neurological disorders like meningitis, intracranial hemorrhage, and traumatic brain injury
  • Eye surgeries or procedures that affect the eye’s sensitivity to light
  • Systemic diseases such as lupus, Lyme disease, and porphyria
  • Medications or drugs that cause pupil dilation
  • Light colored irises, such as blue or green, are more sensitive to light
  • Changes in lighting such as going from a dark movie theater to bright daylight


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Managing Photophobia

  • Consult an Eye Care Professional: Consult an eye care professional to rule out any eye infection, inflammation, or underlying disease that needs to be treated.
  • Wear Sunglasses: Invest in sunglasses with polarized or tinted lenses to reduce the amount of light reaching your eyes.
  • Adjust Lighting: Dim indoor lighting or use curtains and blinds to regulate natural light exposure.
  • Take Breaks: If you work on digital screens, take frequent breaks to rest your eyes and minimize light exposure.

Living with Photophobia

Living with photophobia may require lifestyle adjustments to minimize discomfort and enhance quality of life:

  • Plan Activities: Schedule outdoor activities during early morning or late afternoon when sunlight is less intense.
  • Choose Indoor Settings: Opt for venues with adjustable lighting or shaded areas to avoid harsh glare.
  • Use Specialized Eyewear: Consider eyewear like migraine glasses, which are designed to filter specific wavelengths of light and reduce discomfort.


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Photophobia can significantly impact daily life, making simple tasks challenging and diminishing overall well-being. Although sunglasses can provide relief from light sensitivity, if you are experiencing any sudden or unusual photophobia, seek professional guidance from an eye care specialist.

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Ivan Yong

Dr. Ivan Yong is an optometrist with over 12 years of experience in the optical industry. He earned his doctorate from the Southern California College of Optometry and has practiced in multiple settings, including private practice, community health, and ophthalmology. Dr. Yong aims to expand access to affordable eyewear and improve eye health worldwide.