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Photophobia

Photophobia is eye discomfort in bright light.

Alternative Names

Light sensitivity; Vision - light sensitive; Eyes - sensitivity to light

Considerations

Photophobia is common. For many people, the problem is not due to any disease. Severe photophobia may occur with eye problems. It can cause bad eye pain, even in low light.

Causes

  • Acute iritis or uveitis (inflammation inside eye)
  • Burns to the eye
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Drugs such as amphetamines, atropine, cocaine , cyclopentolate, idoxuridine, phenylephrine, scopolamine, trifluridine, tropicamide, and vidarabine
  • Excessive wearing of contact lenses, or wearing badly-fitted contact lenses
  • Eye disease, injury, or infection (such as chalazion , episcleritis , glaucoma )
  • Eye testing when the eyes have been dilated
  • Meningitis
  • Migraine headache
  • Recovery from eye surgery 

Home Care

Things you can do to ease light sensitivity include:

  • Avoid sunlight
  • Close your eyes
  • Wear dark glasses
  • Darkening the room

If eye pain is severe, see your health care provider about the cause of light sensitivity. Proper treatment may cure the problem. Get medical help right away if your pain is moderate to severe, even in low-light conditions.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor if:

  • Light sensitivity is severe or painful. (For example, you need to wear sunglasses indoors.)
  • Sensitivity occurs with headaches, red eye or blurred vision or does not go away in a day or two.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The doctor will perform a physical examination , including an eye exam. You may be asked the following questions:

  • When did the light sensitivity begin?
  • How bad is the pain? Does it hurt all the time or just sometimes?
  • Do you need to wear dark glasses or stay in dark rooms?
  • Did a doctor recently dilate your pupils?
  • What medicines do you take? Have you used any eye drops?
  • Do you use contact lenses?
  • Have you used soaps, lotions, cosmetics, or other chemicals around your eyes?
  • Does anything make the sensitivity better or worse?
  • Have you been injured?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Pain in the eye
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Headache or neck stiffness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sore or wound in eye
  • Redness, itching, or swelling
  • Numbness or tingling elsewhere in the body
  • Changes in hearing

The following tests may be done:

References

Godfrey WA. Acute anterior uveitis. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Clinical Ophthalmology. 2012 ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:vol. 4, chap 40.

Freidl KB, Troost BT, Moster ML. Migraine and other headaches. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Clinical Ophthalmology. 2012 ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:vol. 2, chap 16.

Steinemann TL, Ehlers W, Suchecki J. Contact lens-related complications. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 4.24.

Sharma R, Brunette DD. Ophthalmology. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 69.

Updated: 5/7/2013

Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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