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Photophobia (Light Sensitivity)

Photophobia, also referred to as light sensitivity, is the inability to tolerate light. People with photophobia can be sensitive to all types of light, including sunlight, fluorescent light, and even soft incandescent light. Exposure to bright light can cause intense pain, nausea, and headaches.

What is photophobia?

It is normal to be somewhat sensitive to sunlight and bright lights. However, people with photophobia experience physical pain when exposed to light. The condition is caused by too much light entering the eye. The excess light over stimulates the receptors in the eyes, leading to sensitivity and pain.

Symptoms of photophobia

Photophobia causes people to squint in bright light. Light sensitive individuals often experience shooting pain in the head and temples, which may be accompanied by: 

  • Headaches 
  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness

Severe photophobia can cause additional physical symptoms including: 

  • Swelling of the eyes 
  • Eye discharge 
  • Eye redness

Causes of photophobia

Light sensitivity is not actually a disease; rather, it is a symptom of an underlying problem. It can be caused by a number of conditions that affect the eyes and the body as a whole. Some of the potential causes of photophobia: 

  • Migraines 
  • Infections 
  • Corneal abrasions 
  • Cataracts 
  • Detached retina 
  • Refractive surgery 
  • Conjunctivitis 
  • Keratitis 
  • Medications like tetracycline

Treatment of photophobia

Because light sensitivity is usually a symptom of another condition, the best treatment is to remove the underlying cause. Without knowing the cause of their sensitivity, people with photophobia may have to wear dark glasses and avoid direct sunlight and bright lights.

When the pain associated with light sensitivity becomes persistent and severe, it is best to talk to a physician.



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