What is it?

Photophobia, or light sensitivity, is an intolerance of light. Sources such as sunlight, fluorescent light, and incandescent light all can cause discomfort, along with a need to squint or close the eyes. Headaches also may accompany light sensitivity. Light-sensitive people sometimes are bothered only by bright light. In extreme cases, however, any light can be irritating.

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Signs & symptoms

Photophobia can affect people of all ages. It is often a recurrent and benign (not medically serious) experience, but it may develop due to a medical condition. Usually, photophobia affects both eyes equally. Sometimes, however, eye problems can cause photophobia in only one eye.

Symptoms of photophobia include:
- Sensitivity to light
- Aversion to light
- A sense that regular lighting appears excessively bright
- Seeing bright colored spots, even in the dark or with eyes closed
- Difficulty reading or looking at pictures or text
- Pain or discomfort when looking at the light
- Squinting one or both eyes
- Forehead pain
- Tears from the eyes
- A sense that the eyes are excessively dry


Diagnosis of photophobia includes physical examination, eye examination, and medical history anamnesis.
Physical examination will include an evaluation of neurological function including strength, reflexes, coordination, and sensation. Eye examination includes checking eye movements, vision, and pupils. It also includes examination of the retina, nerves, and blood vessels behind the eyes using ophthalmoscopy, a painless and non-invasive method of examining the eyes. Ophthalmoscopy can detect cataracts, retinal problems, nerve and blood vessel disease, or glaucoma.
Other tests may include:
- Ocular tonometry
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
- Fluorescein angiography
- Blood tests
- Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Brain magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) or computed tomography angiogram (CTA)


There are two aspects to the treatment of photophobia. One aspect involves treatment of the underlying cause. Diagnosis of the cause of the symptoms is important because the conditions that cause photophobia are treated differently from each other.
The other aspect of photophobia treatment is focused on the relief of the symptoms. While the underlying condition is being treated, it may take days or even longer for the photophobia to improve. There are several things that are possible to do to maintain comfort while the condition is resolving.
- Wearing sunglasses.
- Decrease exposure to the light.
- Use green-tinted light or tinted glasses if possible because it does not induce photophobia to the same degree as other colors of light.
- Use eye drops for comfort.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) after discussing it with your doctor.
- Non-invasive transcutaneous electrical nerve (TENS) stimulation may provide some relief for people who have photophobia with eye pain.
-Botulinum toxin A injections have been used for photophobia that does not improve with medication, with some good results.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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