Sensitive to Light? You May Have Photophobia

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, approximately 80% of the population has light sensitivity that can cause discomfort. Individuals who feel pain when exposed to bright light are often photophobic. Various issues can cause the condition, and no medication can cure it. However, doctors can reduce or eliminate symptoms by treating underlying conditions.

Signs You Might Be Photophobic

Because “Photophobia” translates as fear of light, those with the condition are often described as photosensitive. However, photosensitivity is an immune system response that affects the eyes, while those who experience discomfort when exposed to light are considered photophobic.


There are specific signs that indicate you may be photophobic, and they include:

  • Itchy eyes and the impulse to touch them often
  • Painful eyes that may be red and swollen
  • Neck stiffness, blurred vision, or headaches
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Squinting when exposed to light

What Causes Light Sensitivity?

According to Medical News Today, various medications and conditions can cause extreme sensitivity to light. Also, certain kinds of light may trigger symptoms.

Migraine headaches are linked to light sensitivity. Approximately 80-90% of photophobic people suffer from migraines, and symptoms may occur during headaches or between episodes.

Traumatic brain injuries can create intense light sensitivity, as can meningitis, an inflammation of the brain’s protective layer.

Photophobic patients may develop symptoms due to eye conditions, including optic neuritis, corneal disease, conjunctivitis, and uveitis.

Underlying psychological conditions may also cause light sensitivity. Those who are agoraphobic (afraid of leaving their home or being in crowds) may be photophobic. Panic disorders and depression can also trigger symptoms.

Certain medications can result in light sensitivity. These include:

  1. Antianxiety drugs like Valium
  2. Haldol, which is prescribed for mental conditions
  3. Barbituates prescribed as sedatives
  4. The anti-malarial drug Aralen

Some types of light may trigger photophobic symptoms, with blue-light wavelength producing the most sensitivity. Flickering and fluorescent lighting and light in striped patterns may cause discomfort to highly light-sensitive people.

Diagnosing the Problem

Only a healthcare provider can determine if you are photophobic. Per VeryWell Health, your doctor will get your health history and perform a physical and eye examination. They may run diagnostic tests, including blood tests, an MRI, brain MRA, or CTA.

A doctor will ask questions and determine whether you have symptoms of conditions other than extreme light sensitivity. They will request a list of medications you are taking to determine if any contribute to the problem.

Treatment Options

Your health care provider’s treatment recommendations will depend on the reason for your light sensitivity. If an underlying condition causes the problem, they will treat the problem to relieve your symptoms.

It’s crucial to pinpoint all conditions linked to extreme light sensitivity since underlying issues can vary, as do their treatments. For example, medicine or surgery may be required if the problem is glaucoma.

Symptoms caused by MS can be minimized with medications that help manage the disease. If you are photophobic due to migraines, prescription and over-the-counter medications can help.

Millions of people are photophobic, meaning they feel eye pain when exposed to bright light. The problem is often linked to underlying conditions, including migraines, brain injury, and MS. A doctor can diagnose the situation and recommend treatment. The treatment will depend on the causes of light sensitivity and often involves treating an underlying condition.

Skip to toolbar