Light Sensitivity (Photophobia)
Literally translated as “fear of light,” photophobia is a fairly common symptom during which a person’s eyes are so sensitive to light that exposure to normal illumination causes discomfort and even pain. The pain caused by photophobia distinguishes it from other light-sensitive eye conditions that can cause blurry vision or other uncomfortable visual effects.
People can have photophobia from a very young age, but this type of light sensitivity can also develop gradually or come on suddenly later in life.
What Causes Photophobia?
Light-sensitive eyes can sometimes be symptoms of conditions that affect the brain. A prominent example is the eye sensitivity to light that accompanies migraines, which are headaches distinguished by severe, throbbing pain, frequently on one side of the head. In fact, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about 80% of people who have migraines also experience photophobia.
Migraine is the most common neurological cause of photophobia, but some others include:
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage
Photophobia can also be caused by eye conditions, such as:
- Corneal abrasion
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Dry eye syndrome
Photophobia Prevention and Treatment
If you have photophobia, you may not be able to eliminate episodes of painful light sensitivity altogether. But pinpointing the cause of your light-sensitive eyes is key to preventing the debilitating effects of this symptom.
For example, if you have photophobia when you have a migraine, it’s a good idea to keep a record of circumstances or activities that trigger your migraines and try to avoid those. Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently is a good way to prevent both conjunctivitis and meningitis. And you can talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated against meningitis and encephalitis.
Accurately diagnosing the condition that’s causing photophobia is also critical to developing an effective treatment plan. Depending on the underlying cause, your ophthalmologist may prescribe eye drops, artificial tears, or other treatments to alleviate your eye sensitivity to light.
Florida Medical Clinic’s experienced ophthalmologists treat photophobia and many other eye conditions at our locations in Land O’ Lakes, New Tampa, North Tampa, and Zephyrhills. Click here to request an appointment.
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