Back to Blog

What is Photophobia?

March 16, 2016

Ever feel like the lights are too harsh or bright?  Does the sun’s glare really bother you?  Do the florescent lights at work cause you to squint and give you a headache?  There is a chance that you may be photophobic. Sensitivity to light, the inability to tolerate light, is medically known as photophobia. For someone with this type of sensitivity, any type of light source, whether it is sunlight, fluorescent light, or incandescent light, can cause discomfort. What are the symptoms of this disorder? What causes it? What can possibly help? Let’s take a closer look.


What are the symptoms of photophobia?

Photophobia typically causes a need to squint or close the eyes. Some people may develop a  headache, nausea, or other symptoms that may be associated with photophobia

What causes this disorder?

While the origin and management of light sensitivity remain elusive even today there are some common conditions that can be related to photophobia. For example:

  • Migraines – Migraines are headaches that can be triggered by a number of factors, including hormonal changes, foods, stress, and environmental changes. Photophobia is a common symptom of migraine headaches. Many people report needing to be in a dark room with something shielding their eyes to receive any comfort.
  • Brain Conditions such as: Encephalitis, Meningitis or Subarachnoid Hemorrhage. Light sensitivity is commonly associated with a few serious conditions that affect the brain. Due to inflammation, bleeding or an infection in the brain, light sensitivity may result. Treatment for these disorders may help photophobia.
  • Eye Disorders such as: Dry Eye Syndrome, Conjunctivitis, Corneal Abrasion or Scleritis. These eye disorders that should be examined and diagnosed by your eye doctor and treated for the root cause, not just the symptom of light sensitivity associated with it.

What can help?

While there is no definitive cure, yet, there are some steps you can take to help alleviate the discomfort of photophobia.

Home-care – Stay out of the bright light when you are most affected. Use tinted glasses that can protect you from damaging rays of the sun and provide some protection from the glare and painful brightness.

Medical treatment – The type of treatment you need will depend on the underlying cause. Types of treatment include:

  • medications and rest for migraines
  • eye drops that reduce inflammation for scleritis
  • antibiotics for conjunctivitis
  • artificial tears for mild dry eye syndrome
  • antibiotic eye drops for corneal abrasions
  • anti-inflammatory medications, bed rest, and fluids for mild cases of encephalitis; severe cases require supportive care, such as breathing assistance
  • antibiotics for bacterial meningitis; the viral form usually clears up on its own within two weeks
  • surgery to remove excess blood and relieve pressure on your brain for subarachnoid hemorrhage