Photophobia is an intolerance to light, impacting comfortable vision to varying degrees. Discomfort, squinting and headaches may all be symptoms of photophobia. Not to be confused with a normal sensitivity to light—as when abruptly moving from dark to light or when experiencing glare—persons suffering from photophobia are often irritated by not only sunlight, but to fluorescent and incandescent light as well.
Photophobia is a symptom, not a disease. Typically accompanied by infection, eye inflammation or other eye condition, photophobia and light sensitivity also can be symptoms of conditions unrelated to the eyes, such as the flu, certain viruses or migraines. For instance, people who suffer from severe migraines can tolerate almost no light during intense episodes and often keep their eyes closed.
Corneal abrasions, uveitis and meningitis (a central nervous system disorder) may also result in photophobia, as may contact lens irritations, refractive surgery, sunburn and a detached retina--a retina separated from underlying support tissue is said to be detached. The condition is sight-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Unless the retina is reattached quickly, permanent vision loss can result.
Photophobia accompanies numerous other conditions, including eye color deficiency, iritis, conjunctivitis, keratitis, botulism, mercury poisoning, rabies and albinism, or a complete lack of eye pigment.
People with light eye color tend to be more sensitive to light than people with dark colored eyes. The reason for this is that light eyes contain lower levels of pigment to guard against bright or harsh lighting than do dark eyes.
Photophobia is a known side effect to medications such as tetracycline, furosemide, doxycycline, quinine and belladonna.
If you’re naturally sensitive to light, sunglasses are best worn in places where light may be intense. Some people require darker shades than others. Wide-brimmed hats also work well in blocking UV rays for jaunts under the sun. For photophobia conditions unrelated to natural causes, such as medications, eye infections, viral infections or other, it’s best to treat the underlying disorder as a means of treating photophobic symptoms.
Some contact lens wearers have opted to wear prosthetic contact lenses customized to reduce the amount of light that enters the eye, successfully blocking photophobic symptoms.*
*Statements contained herein have not been reviewed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Yourlens.com does not provide medical advice. User assumes all liability for content. Talk to your licensed eye care professional or eye doctor regarding vision correction, eye or vision disorders, eye discomfort, contact lens types and materials and for general information on eye care products and eye health.