Photophobia - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Photophobia in an eye condition defined by increased sensitivity to light. More present in people with lighter-colored eyes are more likely to develop this condition as their eyes contain less pigments responsible for diffusing harsh light, such as the one coming from incandescent and fluorescent sources or from the sun.
While in most cases only bright light causes the specific discomfort and sensitivity, there are people who experience eye pain and irritation when exposed to any light source. Along with the urge to close the eyes, headaches are often present, making the condition even less pleasant.
What causes photophobia?
Eye infections and irritations are thought to trigger this problem most of the times, although eye disorders such as albinism can also lead to increased sensitivity to light. People who underwent eye surgery are more likely to develop this condition so they’re generally advised to wear sunglasses during the recovery period, to avoid irritation and discomfort. Retina disorders are linked with this condition as well, the light-sensitive tissue being responsible for processing the images formed when light enters the eye.
Corneal abrasion, uveitis or the inflammation of the inner chamber of the eye, nervous system ailments such as meningitis as well as retinal detachments are listed among the potential causes of this health problem. Irritations caused by contact lenses, inflammations affecting the cornea, conjunctiva or iris, medicines such as tetracycline and doxycycline as well as botulism, albinism (lack of eye pigment) and rabies can favor the occurrence of this eye problem.
Specific symptoms and self help
Besides light sensitivity, other signs of photophobia are headaches, an itching or burning sensation in eye and excessive tear production in the presence of light, as nausea, wincing and squinting.
If these symptoms are constantly present when you are exposed to a source of light, you can try to wear darker glasses when outside, to avoid midday sun, close your eyes and cover them with your palms when the discomfort becomes too accentuated and the light is too bright. Darkening the working room and decreasing the monitor’s brightness while working on the computer are also short-term solutions.
Still, if the discomfort persists and eye pain becomes severe, seeing your health care provider is the best thing to do as you may need a more complex treatment for curing this problem. Note that sensitivity to light can be a side effect of a more serious underlying condition so the sooner you get diagnosed and treated the greater the chances of reducing the risks for complications will be.
Medical treatment for photophobia
Treating this condition is not as hard as it may seem but requires a detailed examination of all the potential triggers that may be causing the problem. Unless the underlying cause is eliminated, photophobia can’t be cured so before actually starting a treatment plan you have to help your doctor identify the factor that makes your eyes so sensitive to light.
In most cases once the trigger is removed the symptoms disappear so if medications cause you sensitivity to light, you should either discontinue the treatment or ask for a different medication scheme. Wearing wide-brimmed hats when exposed to bright sunlight and sunglasses with photochromic lenses and UV protection can reduce the sensitivity.
Still, if you’re naturally sensitive to light, extra protection may be required for preventing the condition from getting worse so unless you have to be out in the sun all day long, make sure you avoid excess exposure to sunlight. For protecting your eyes from glare-causing reflections of light from roadways, snow, water or and other reflective surfaces, polarized sunglasses may be helpful.
Prosthetic contact lenses colored just like your eyes can also be a solution if none of the previously mentioned treatments work. The role of these lenses is to reduce the amount of light entering your eyes, relieving the discomfort, pain and irritation and making light more tolerable. Still, keep in mind that photophobia is sometimes your body’s natural mechanism of defense against eye trauma resulting from surgery or vision disorders, so regardless of the treatment you opt for it may take some time for this symptom to disappear.