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Sensitive to Light

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By Medicover Hospitals / 29 Mar 2021
Home | symptoms | sensitive-to-light
  • If you are naturally more sensitive to bright light, you may want to consider glasses for photophobia. Glasses for photophobia can help protect your eyes from bright light conditions, helping to achieve a more comfortable vision. Many types of photophobia glass will help reduce the effects of light sensitivity.
  • Article Context:

    1. What is Sensitive To Light?
    2. Causes
    3. Diagnosis
    4. Treatment
    5. When to visit a Doctor?
    6. Prevention
    7. Home Remedies
    8. FAQ's

    What is Sensitive To Light?

  • Sensitive to light is the inability to tolerate light, medically called photophobia. In a person sensitive to light, any type of light source (sunlight, fluorescent light, incandescent light) can cause discomfort. Photophobia usually results in the need to squint or close your eyes, and headaches, nausea, or other symptoms may be associated with photophobia. Symptoms can be worse with bright light. People with light eyes are more likely to be sensitive to bright light than those with darker eyes. Several conditions that affect the eye cause sensitivity (such as iritis, uveitis, and keratitis), and conditions that affect the entire body. Migraine is a common cause of photophobia, with most people with migraines reporting sensitivity to light.
  • Causes:

  • Common and frequent illnesses that are associated with or are the root cause of sensitivity to light include migraine, anterior segment disease, intracranial conditions, dry eye, and blepharospasm.
    • Migraine: Migraine is a severe headache that triggers sensitivity to light. Chronic and sporadic migraines are two types of migraines, which have enormous possibilities of creating sensitivity to light. People with chronic migraines are more sensitive to light than people with sporadic migraines. It is proven that almost 80% of people with migraines suffer from photophobia.
    • Anterior segment disease: Conditions like cyclitis, iritis, and blepharitis have a long-term association with photophobia. These disorders are apparently due to direct irritation of the trigeminal afferent that innervates both the cornea and the eye.
    • Dry eyes: The condition in which tears cannot provide adequate moisture is called dry eyes. The rapid decrease in moisture and lubrication on the surface of the eye causes dry eyes. This paves the way for photophobia. If dry eyes are left untreated, it can lead to ulcers and scarring on the cornea, and can even reach the extent of vision loss.
    • Blepharospasm: Blepharospasm, also known as ocular dystonia, is an excruciating pain from muscle contraction around the eye. This often happens due to the poor transmission of messages from the brain to the muscles around the eye. Blepharospasm is known to be a neurological movement disorder, which requires compulsory medication. Symptoms of this disorder are frequently blinking and eye irritation. One study shows that four out of five patients with blepharospasm suffer from photophobia.
    • Intracranial Conditions: This condition involves meningeal irritation due to meningitis, pituitary tumors, etc., which could cause photophobia. Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, caused by a bacterial infection or virus.

    Diagnosis:

  • If you think you have photophobia, see your ophthalmologist. They will ask you questions about your symptoms and any medical conditions you have. Then they will check the health of your eyes and possibly your brain.
  • Tests that your doctor might use include:
    • Slit-lamp eye examination: They will use a special microscope with a light to examine your eyes.
    • MRI or magnetic resonance imaging: It uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make detailed images of your eyes.
    • Examination of the tear film: This checks the number of tears you are making to see if you have dry eyes.

    Treatment:

    • The best treatment for light sensitivity is to tackle the underlying cause. After the trigger is resolved or managed, photophobia most times goes away.
    • If you are taking any medicine that causes sensitivity to light, talk to your doctor about stopping or replacing the medicine.
    • If you are naturally sensitive to light, avoid direct sunlight and other intense light sources. Wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection outdoors in daylight.
    • Also, consider wearing glasses with photochromic lenses. These lenses automatically darken outdoors and also block 100% of the sun's UV rays.
    • In direct-sunlight, wear polarized sunglasses. These lenses provide additional protection against reflections causing glare from light from water, sand, snow, concrete pavements, and other reflective surfaces.
    • If you are very sensitive to light, you may even consider wearing prosthetic contact lenses specially colored to look like your own eyes and also reduce the amount of light entering your eyes to reduce or prevent photophobia.

    When to see a doctor?

  • If you have mild light sensitivity, you can probably self-manage with sunglasses and avoid brightly lit areas. But it's important to note that light sensitivity could be a symptom of an underlying health problem. It is therefore recommended to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist to rule out any serious illness.
  • Some conditions that cause sensitivity to light are medical emergencies. If you notice that sensitivity to light occurs along with other sudden and severe symptoms, it is recommended that you seek immediate medical attention. The concomitant symptoms vary depending on the underlying condition. See an ophthalmologist as soon as possible if your sensitivity to light shows up with any of the following symptoms:
    • Corneal abrasion: blurred vision, redness of the eyes, burning sensation or pain, feeling that something is in the eye.
    • Encephalitis: fever, severe headache, confusion, difficulty waking up.
    • Meningitis: nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, severe headache, chills, fever.
    • Subarachnoid hemorrhage: severe and sudden headache, numbness in the body, decreased consciousness, confusion, irritability.

    Prevention:

  • Although you may not be able to prevent sensitivity to light, certain behaviors can help prevent some of the conditions that can cause photophobia, including the following:
    • Try to avoid the triggers that cause you to have migraine attacks.
    • Prevent conjunctivitis by practicing good hygiene, not touching the eyes, and not sharing eye makeup.
    • Reduce your risk of developing meningitis by avoiding contact with infected people, washing your hands often, and immunizing against bacterial meningitis.
    • Help prevent encephalitis by washing your hands frequently.
    • Getting the encephalitis vaccine and avoiding exposure to mosquitoes and ticks can also help prevent encephalitis.

    Home Remedies:

    • Gradually increase light exposure: you cannot hide in the dark or cover your eyes with sunglasses indoors. This practice can make you more sensitive to light. Keeping the lights on, even at lower levels, is an important step in alleviating the problem.
    • Get rid of fluorescent bulbs: Fluorescent lighting has invisible flicker and a significant amount of blue light, both of which can worsen photophobia and light sensitivity conditions. LED bulbs, especially with warm color tones, can be a great alternative and natural lighting.
    • Open your blinds fully: Striped, high contrast light patterns have been shown to exacerbate an overactive brain. Opening or closing your shades fully can eliminate the scattered light and touch your eyes in unexpected ways.
    • Check your medications: While there isn't a definitive list of medications that cite photophobia as a side effect, some optometrists and healthcare professionals have associated it with common medications used to treat other conditions.
    • Wear Polarized Sunglasses Outdoors: If you must go in daylight, be sure to take your polarized sunglasses to reduce glare, glare, and sunlight.
    • Check your contact lenses or eyeglasses: Eye strain is a major contributor to worsening photophobia, but it can often be easily treated by wearing your contact lenses or eyeglasses. This way you don't have to strain your eyes to concentrate. But make sure your contact lenses are clean, as inflammation, red eyes, and itching can also make your sensitivity to light more pronounced.
    • Take a break away from your computer or mobile device: Computer vision syndrome is a real health problem for people who spend all day on a computer or mobile device. Eye strain, headaches, and sensitivity to light can all be signs. Take periodic eye breaks from your device or, heck, even put it down for a while if you can.
    • Eye drops: Dry eyes can also lead to higher levels of photophobia, especially if you are diagnosed with dry eye syndrome. At a minimum, eyes that lack moisture can lead to itching, redness, or generalized tenderness. Over-the-counter artificial eye drops and tears can keep them lubricated and ease the pain of light.
    • Find ways to de-stress: Migraine photophobia is often linked to other psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety. Although the exact cause remains unknown, stress and anxiety can trigger episodes or seizures and lead to pain in a person sensitive to light. Whether it's yoga or other exercises, listening to music, or watching your favorite TV show, finding your happy place can make a big difference in how you feel.

    Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Inflammation of the eye can cause sudden onset of significant or even painful light sensitivity (photophobia). This could be due to a foreign body in the eye, an infection of the cornea, or inflammation of the iris or uvea. Sensitivity to light can also occur after LASIK or cataract surgery.
  • Mostly when the trigger is managed, the photophobia goes away. For example, your treatment plan may include medication changes, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory treatments, surgery.
  • Photophobia can neither be a temporary side effect nor a permanent side effect. It purely depends on the particular health condition due to which it is caused.
  • If you are naturally more sensitive to bright light, consider glasses for photophobia. Glasses for photophobia can help protect your eyes from bright light conditions, helping to achieve a more comfortable vision. Many types of photophobia glass will help reduce the effects of light sensitivity.
  • Citations:

  • Sensitive to light - https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpregu.1997.273.5.R1800
  • Sensitive to Light - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jpi.12562