Photophobia (Sensitivity to light)

Sensitivity to light is the inability to tolerate light. In a brightly lit environment no matter the source for instance when looking at the sky, because of pain, severe tearing and discomfort, the eyes squint or close or the head moves away from the source.

Photophobia – sensitivity to light

Sensitivity to light or “Photophobia” as it is known medically results in pain and discomfort when someone is exposed to any bright light (sunlight, fluorescent light, incandescent light). Often patients as a consequence have associated squinting and eye closure and the condition can be associated with headache and nausea. Those with light-coloured eyes are more likely to have sensitivity to bright light than those with darker-pigmented eyes.

Causes of Photophobia

A number of different conditions can cause sensitivity to light from dry eye to severe inflammation in the eye. The structures of the eye are very sensitive and there are a high concentration of nerve endings sensitive to pain on the cornea (transparent part of the eye) and other eye structures. Inflammation of any part of the eye results in increased light sensitivity.

The causes below are not an exhaustive list and provided to improve knowledge of the condition.

  • Dry eye
  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Iritis
  • Uveitis
  • Post-surgery
  • Post Trauma / eye injury

Photophobia is a symptom that could indicate something serious taking place in the eye and you are advised to see an ophthalmologists without delay if you are constantly experiencing this symptom.

If you are unsure about your loss of vision contact one of our Patient Co-ordinators who can arrange an appointment for you to see one of our surgeons. Call 0800 0112882 or email us here.

Author Information

Authored by Sheraz Daya MD FACP FACS FRCS(Ed) FRCOphth, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon & Medical Director, June 2019.

Next review due June 2024.