Photophobia is a condition of the eye that is also known as light sensitivity. If light causes discomfort to a persons’ eyes and causes squinting or tearing, or even causes headaches or nausea this can be considered photophobia.

People with lighter colored eyes tend to be naturally more light sensitive than people with darker colored eyes.

Causes of Photophobia

There are many causes of photophobia.

  • One common cause is the migraine headache. Migraines can be triggered by changes in hormones, food, and environment. 10% of the population suffers from migraines and sensitivity to light is a major complaint for the majority of these people. They sometimes have to close themselves off in a dark room to feel better.
  • Neuralgic conditions like meningitis and encephalitis can cause light sensitivity as a symptom.
  • Eye conditions such as corneal abrasions where the outermost layer of the is injured can cause light sensitivity. Foreign bodies on the cornea or trauma to the eye cause photophobia as one of the symptoms.
  • Conjunctivitis where there is infection or inflammation of the white part of the eye can cause photophobia, redness, discharge and itching. It can be viral, bacterial, or allergic in nature.
  • Dry eye which is a condition caused by poor tear production or by having poor quality tears can cause an irregular corneal surface which in turn can cause light sensitivity and reflex tearing.
  • Uveitis which is an inflammation of the iris, ciliary body or choroid inside the eye can sensitivity to light. It can be caused by trauma to the eye or due to numerous possible inflammatory disease going on in the body.
  • Some oral medications cause photophobia such as tetracycline, doxycycline and quinine.
  • If a patient has a detached retina light sensitivity can be one of their complaints.

Treatment of Photophobia

Once the underlying problem is diagnosed that is causing the photophobia it usually disappears with proper treatment. If you have a light colored eye using sunglasses with U.V. protection will help. If conjuctivitis or dry eye are the cause then the proper antibiotic drops or artificial tears will be used to aid in healing. With uveitis steroid drops are used to treat the disease.

Light sensitivity or photophobia is a very common complaint that brings people to the eye doctor and proper diagnosis is key for patient comfort.