What Is Photophobia (Light Sensitivity)?

Photophobia is a worrying symptom especially to patients suffering from migraines. The symptom has been misunderstood, but with more research, there will begin to be an increase in knowledge about light sensitivity.  This will lead to a better understanding of how light is a real problem for the those with the affliction, which in turn will lead to more available solutions.




What Is Photophobia?


Photophobia increases the sense of light making one think that the light is brighter while others will experience some pain which is associated with light. Every human being has a level of light sensitivity; to attest to this fact is when one moves from a dark room out in the sun one experiences discomfort for a short while. Some people experience this discomfort on a daily basis and even the normal light causes them great discomfort. Photophobia is used as a primary symptom in the diagnoses of migraine. While some experience photophobia daily, the problem may get to the point of causing disability to some.


The level of discomfort increases with the increase in the level of light. However, the light color and wave of length is important for example a blue colored light is more troublesome than any other color of light. If one lives under minimum light they will always sense the normal light as being too bright.

Wearing polarized sunglasses can help reduce the sunlight’s harsh glare.

Although it has not been fully established the area of brain which experiences light sensitivity, light is sensed by the retina where it is carried by visual pathways to the brain. The retina has cells which not only detects light but it also forms vision like seeing pictures and reading letters. These cells are known as cones which get to the visual pathway. Melanopsin is another system which is used specifically in the sensing of light but does is not used in forming of vision. The light detecting cells are few in the retina and when combined with the visual pathways the sense brightness causing trouble. The cells connect to the trigeminal system in the brain center which can cause pain. Blind people or people with no formed vision experience photophobia because of the melanopsin system.

Photophobia is associated with migraine and harsh lighting, but there are other causes of the same condition. The iris (dark part of the eye), the cornea and the back of the eye are where the trigeminal pain fibers. Some people with dry eyes experience light sensitivity. Photophobia can be a symptom in meningitis, causing inflammations in the brain and pituitary tumors. Blepharospasm (movement disorder causing frequent blinking) and migraines are the common causes of photophobia. It is advisable for patients with dry eyes to visit ophthalmologist to avoid complicated chronic photophobia.


Polarized lenses are designed to reduce the intensity of reflected light on the eyes.

With correct diagnosis correct treatments can be given and photophobia can be reduced. Dry eye conditions are treated by use of ointments, gels or tears. Treatment of migraines reduces the chances of photophobia from becoming chronic. One can consult an oculist to attain tinted lenses such the FL-41 tint, red lenses and blue blocking lenses, which not only decreases photophobia but also improves light sensitivity of the eye. One can also consider wearing sunglasses when out in the sunlight. Other causes that can be treated to reduce photophobia are depression, sleep disorder and anxiety.