Photosensitivity, photophobia or sensitivity to light, is the intolerance or discomfort that light causes in some people. Almost all of us are bothered by light or, rather, excess light at some point in time and it is not dangerous or bad, but when it comes to acute sensitivity it can even affect our life, character, work, etc.
When we talk about photophobia, we must be very precise, since we cannot confuse it with the annoyance that the mobile light sometimes causes if we have very high brightness and we turn it on at dawn. It is a disorder with very annoying consequences and that is related to other health problems, so it is convenient to know what happens to us to solve it.
Without being very technical, photophobia is a visual condition that affects many human beings and causes a certain rejection and intolerance to light, whether solar or artificial . This photosensitivity does not normally appear suddenly, but behind there are certain undiagnosed causes, so it is time to visit an ophthalmologist and catch up on eye health.
This annoying sensitivity to light reacts both outdoors with natural light and solar rays and in indoor areas such as our home with normal bulbs and fluorescent and incandescent bulbs (the transparent bulbs that are lit filaments). That’s why people with photosensitivity prefer warm (orange) lights with a thick covering for their home and blue lights for reading or studying.
There are several levels of photophobia, it can be a specific annoyance, such as the high beams of the cars at night, the light bulbs in the bathroom that focus directly on the face, the first seconds of sun when we leave the house, etc. And then the annoyances of this light intolerance increase, even becoming painful and irritating and having to leave the house with well protected eyes.
Causes of sensitivity to light
As we have said, photosensitivity can be caused by an undiagnosed disorder, so if we detect that the light bothers us, we have to go to a specialist to find out what exactly is happening to our eyes.
Here are some of the causes that lead to photophobia and with which we surely feel identified when we also see the symptoms of this eye condition:
- Light eyes: People who have light eyes are more likely to develop sensitivity to light since their eyes have less iris pigmentation and let more light pass into the interior.
- Trauma: a small percentage of those who suffer photosensitivity are not due to intrinsic causes of the eye, but through a blow or trauma that has damaged the cornea.
- Eye problems: sensitivity to light can be the trigger for conjunctivitis, uveitis, iritis, infections, dry eye, cataracts, etc.
- Neurological disorders: one of the causes is migraines or headaches, also anxiety disorder, among others.
- Drugs: almost 80% of those who suffer from photophobia are related to migraine, to a greater or lesser extent, but there are also cases in which patients take certain medications (or drugs) that cause sensitivity to light as a side effect. It is important to read the drug leaflet and explain to the specialists who treat us what drugs we are taking at that time.
Symptoms of photosensitivity
To know if we have sensitivity to light, we must pay attention to the main visible symptoms. They are easy to spot as they are a very obvious trail of clues. Based on this self-diagnosis, we can get to know ourselves better, and even help our friends and family, thus facilitating the task of the specialist when we go asking for their help.
- Red eyes.
- Inflammation of the eye.
- Almost constant itching, especially when using screens.
- Cervical stiffness
- Headache, specifically in the back of the head towards the eyes.
- Having the need to squint every time there is light (especially in outdoor areas and sunny days).
- Eye discomfort, such as unexplained pain and pricking.
- Dizziness and nausea after a visual effort.
- Excessive tearing
- Blurred vision.
- Discomfort when exposing ourselves to light, whether natural or artificial.
- Excessive blinking.
- Feel relief when you close your eyes.
- Stinging sensation in bright light.
Treatment for photophobia
There is no miracle, only treatments to solve the cause of photosensitivity. As we have said from the beginning, photophobia is caused by other disorders, so we must carry out an exhaustive control to determine the origin. It will be the ophthalmologist who indicates what treatment we should follow. They range from hydrating drops and anesthetic drops to Botox for migraines .
Once that is in treatment and is solved, we can reduce the sensitivity to light with a series of practical tips, among which we highlight:
- Always wear polarized sunglasses, for walking, driving and for everything, throughout the year.
- Wear glasses to filter blue light from screens, and even use special lenses for photosensitivity.
- If we go out to do sports, or also for our day to day, we have to choose glasses with photochromic lenses, that is, they adapt to the lighting conditions and the lenses darken if there is a lot of light and they clear if there is little lighting.
- Wear glasses with prosthetic lenses, that is, they are tinted (colored) the same color as our eyes.
- Wear a hat or cap when we are in outdoor areas.
- Change the light bulbs at home with strident white light for warm light.
- Take advantage of natural light as much as possible.
- Do not look directly at the Sun, or its reflection, or the bulbs, or any source of light, whether natural or artificial.
- Lower the brightness of mobile devices, including the monitor.
- Do not work with screens in front of an open window through which light enters (this advice is very important for everyone, whether we are photosensitive or not).