Photophobia means that your eyes are sensitive to light. The light may be painful. Photophobia is associated with many eye conditions and other medical issues.
The literal definition of photophobia is “fear of light.” However, in medicine, it refers to your eyes’ sensitivity to light, especially bright light, which can cause discomfort and even pain.
Light sensitivity can be associated with several types of medical conditions. It can also happen as a result of temporary occurrences, like having your eyes dilated for a medical examination.
If you have a sensitivity to light, you may:
There are different types of photophobia: consensual and direct. Direct photophobia refers to eye pain that happens with light shining on the eye itself, while consensual refers to eye pain in the opposite eye when light is shining on one eye. True photophobia is thought to be consensual.
There are several conditions associated with photophobia. Many of them are ocular (eye-related), while others are associated with your nervous system (neurologic causes). Certain medications can also contribute to having an abnormal sensitivity to light.
Dry eye is the most common condition associated with photophobia.
Some eye conditions related to light sensitivity include:
Treating photophobia depends on finding out what’s causing it and then treating the cause.
It’s likely that your provider will do some tests to diagnose the condition that’s causing the photophobia. These steps may include:
Your provider can suggest treatment when the diagnosis is complete. Possible treatments may include:
When treating photophobia at home, you may find it useful to:
Generally, you can’t prevent photophobia. You can, however, make and keep a regular schedule of eye care appointments. Keeping your body healthy will help you keep your eyes healthy.
You should note and report any new or worsening instance of eye discomfort or pain to your provider. Let them know if you have sensitivity even if it doesn’t actually hurt.
Photophobia describes your eyes’ sensitivity to light. Photosensitivity is a term that describes your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight due to an immune system issue or drug reaction.
Photophobia is a sensitivity to light. Phonophobia is defined as a fear of sound and may refer to an abnormal sensitivity to sound. Phonophobia and photophobia may appear together if you have other medical disorders, including migraine headaches or a traumatic brain injury.
Photophobia clears up if healthcare providers can treat the disorder causing it, like uveitis, for example. But it won’t clear up if it’s due to a congenital disorder, low pigment or lack of pigment. If it’s from dry eyes, your provider can help you manage your symptoms, but it’s often permanent.
Photophobia can be a symptom of diseases that can cause blindness, but photophobia itself doesn’t cause blindness.
If you have photophobia (light sensitivity), you may find that it’s a trigger for you if you have certain conditions. You may get dizzy if you’re triggered by bright lights or flashing lights. But photophobia itself doesn’t cause dizziness.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have photophobia, you’re more sensitive to light than other people may be. Light may actually cause your eyes to hurt. Photophobia is generally a symptom of another condition. These conditions range from mild and commonplace to more serious and rare. If you find that light bothers you more than it used to, call your eye care professional and make an appointment. Treating photophobia begins with finding out what’s causing it.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/04/2023.
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