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Photophobia – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

What is Photophobia?

This is an eye condition described as a very abnormally high sensitivity to all types of light, ranging from fluorescents to sunlight. While “photophobia” really means when translated exactly “fear of light,” advocating that this is a psychosomatic problem, it really should be accurately termed “aversion to light” when used in this situation. A diversity of things may cause photophobia and there are a number of treatments presented, depending on the primary cause.


Many individuals have sensitivity to sunlight and normally wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. But when a person is unable to bear bright light and literally experiences intense pain as well as migraines then they are likely to have photophobia. It is not caused by any type of underlying disease but it can be associated to some eye problems, which can be aggravated whether in low or soft light.

Photophobia Symptoms

Photophobia is in some causes actually a common symptom and in many cases is not caused by any causal illness or eye difficulty. Photophobia which is severe can be linked to problems with the eye and can cause serious eye pain even in very low light.

This condition has some symptoms other than just sensitivity to light and they include:

  • Inflammation of eye when tears may or may not be present
  • Atrophy of optic nerve caused by excessive use of alcohol
  • Irritation of brain and nerves caused by excessive use of alcohol
  • Swelling of the eyes
  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • Shooting pains in the head as well as the temples
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Stiff neck

Photophobia Causes

Light sensitivity is not just a disease in itself, but it is also a symptom of other problems such as:

  • Badly fitted contact lenses
  • Excessive wearing of contact lenses
  • Eye injury, disease, or infection such as chalazion, glaucoma, episcleritis
  • Migraine headaches
  • Eyes which are burned
  • Meningitis
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Acute inflammation inside the eyes
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Eye testing which requires the eyes to be dilated
  • Viral illness
  • Cataracts
  • Disorders of the nervous system
  • Detached retina
  • Sunburn
  • Achromatopsia – severe color blindness
  • Conjunctivitispink eye
  • Keratitis

The following medications can have photophobia as a side effect:

  • Amphetamines
  • Calcifediol
  • Atopine
  • Calcijex
  • Calderol
  • Calcitriol
  • Cinobac pulvules
  • Cinoxacin
  • Cocaine
  • Cyclopentolate
  • Crystodigin
  • Dapipirazole hydrochloride
  • Digitoxin
  • Digitaline
  • Idoxuridine
  • Phenylephrine
  • Ophthalmic antifungal drug
  • Rev-eyes
  • Rocaltrol
  • Trifluridine
  • Scopolamine
  • Tropicamide
  • Vidarabine
  • Vitamin D Analog

If an individual is being treated with any of these medications and is experiencing photophobia they should contact their physician before stopping any medical therapy.

Medical professionals are working on research which is showing that photophobia may be more than a psychological disorder than a physical problem. It has been observed that individuals suffering from the following are more vulnerable to photophobia:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Migraines

The disorder intensity varies among individuals and also by season. Obviously, the condition will be much less obvious in the months during winter. Physicians support wearing glasses with rose-tinting rather than glasses which are dark since the latter could actually be exacerbating this problem. Many physicians are assertive that once they can establish the neural pathway which generates sensitivity to light and exactly how the brain is wired they will be better able to treat this condition.

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Photophobia is also associated with other problems which include:

  • Botulism
  • Mercury poisoning
  • Rabies
  • Eye pigment insufficiency

Photophobia Treatment

The first step in countering light sensitivity is to diagnose and treat what is triggering this response. The individual might need to change contact lenses, get treatment for any underlying condition, discontinue drug use or switch to a different medication. If this condition happens after having refractive surgery, the eye might simply need more time to heal and the problem might resolve itself.

Drugs or medications used to treat photophobia may include:

  • Acular
  • Voltaren ophthalmic

Treatment options include:

  • Behavior therapy
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Medical conditions such as meningitis – antibiotics

True phobic or fear of lights is treated as a phobia and include the following management:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Relaxation techniques – controlled breathing, visualization
  • Medication for anxiety

Some individuals resort to remedies such as wearing sunglasses, staying in dark rooms with blinds closed as well as doing whatever is necessary to generally avoid sunlight. If this condition continues indoors with very little light or the pain is extremely severe than that individual should see a physician to seek medical treatment and management. The physician will examine the eye with a biomicroscopy which will check the iris, lens and cornea as well as eyelid. He/she may also suggest a corneal scraping and also in some cases a lumbar puncture also referred to as a spinal tap.

The individual may also wear wide-brimmed hats as well as UV sunglasses from the protection of harsh light sources. Some individuals with photophobia which is serious may need prosthetic prescription safety glasses that prevent large amount of lights from entering the eyes.

Lifestyle and General Health

  • Avoid smoking
  • Increase driving vision by cleaning headlights of the car
  • Slow down. This gives you more time to react to any hazards
  • Always wear sunglasses outside – individuals with blue or green eyes are very sensitive to potential sun-induced damage.
  • Get prescription glasses for night driving if needed
  • When night driving, look to the right – looking at the roadway’s edge on your right helps to avoid the glare of any oncoming headlights
  • Leave driving until tomorrow. Drive only during the day. Even good lighting at night such as in a big city can be bothersome to someone with night blindness or sensitivity to light.

  1. I am very thankful to you sir………now I get the appropriate information about my disease.

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