Does light bother your eyes? You could have photophobia


Most of us have experienced moments in which bright light has bothered our eyes. We picked the wrong day to forget our sunglasses, we didn’t sleep well or we were looking at our computer for too long. But if you find it happening often, in any kind of light, you may be experiencing light sensitivity, or photophobia.

Photophobia doesn’t mean you’re camera-shy; it actually means you have an intolerance to light. Sunlight and indoor lightning can all cause discomfort, making you squint or feel the need to close your eyes. Photophobia can also lead to headaches and nausea.

How Can I Treat My Photophobia?

According to, photophobia itself isn’t an eye disease. Rather, it’s a symptom of many different conditions. Your photophobia can be a result of an infection or an inflammation of the eyes, or even viruses or migraines.

Because it is a symptom, the key to managing photophobia is to treat the underlying condition(s). Unfortunately, the reasons some people experience light as painful are not well-understood, so getting relief remains a challenge.

One thing that may help, aside from treating those underlying conditions, is to avoid wearing dark glasses—which some people may feel inclined to do if their eyes are sensitive.

“People who wear really dark glasses can actually dark-adapt themselves and increase their photosensitivity,” Kathleen B. Digre, MD, professor of ophthalmology and neurology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, told the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Sunglasses outside, of course, are fine, but the darker the glasses inside, the more light-sensitive the person will become.”

It is important to note that those with lighter eyes may experience more light sensitivity than those with with darker eyes, as darker eyes have more pigment to protect against harsh lightening. Obviously, the color of your eyes is genetic, but if you’re naturally sensitive to light, be sure to avoid bright sunlight by donning your hats and sunglasses when you’re outside.

sunglasses bright photo
Flickr | Martin Snicer Photography

RELATED: 6 Things Your Eyes Can Tell You About Your Health

Common Causes of Photophobia

Other common causes of photophobia include:


  • Dry eye
  • Corneal diseases
  • Uveitis
  • Blepharitis
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Iritis
  • Asthenopia
  • Keratoconjunctivitis
  • Retinal disease (e.g., cone dystrophy, retinitis pigmentosa)
  • Vitreous disease
  • Optic neuritis
  • Papilledema


  • Migraine
  • Blepharospasm
  • Depression
  • Head injury
  • Meningitis
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage

RELATED: Here’s When You Should Worry About Eye Floaters

If you think you might have photophobia, the National Eye Institute can help you find an eye care professional.


About the Author
Kaitlin Gates
Kaitlin is a freelance multimedia journalist with a degree in journalism and psychology. Along with Simplemost, she also writes for Don't Waste Your Money, where she loves finding great deals to help people save money. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kaitlin's work.

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