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What Makes Eyes Sensitive to Light?

Light & Eye SensitivityDo you find yourself closing your eyes, squinting or shielding your eyes when exposed to light? You may have light sensitivity or photophobia, a common and usually benign symptom that causes slight and momentary discomfort. Most light-sensitive people are only bothered by bright lights, whether it be sunlight or harsh indoor lighting. But in severe cases any light can irritate the eyes.

Although photophobia is not an eye disease, it can be a sign of a serious underlying problem. Here, the team at Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons discusses the causes of and treatment options for light sensitivity.

Causes of Photophobia

Some people are just naturally more sensitive to light than others. For instance, people with lighter eye colors may experience more light sensitivity in bright environments. (Dark-colored eyes contain more pigment, which protects against harsh lighting.)

In some people, photophobia may be a sign of an eye problem, such as an infection or inflammation. More serious causes include corneal abrasions, uveitis, a detached retina and keratitis. Other health conditions, like chronic migraines and meningitis may also cause photophobia.

Photophobia can also be a side effect of refractive surgery (e.g., cataract surgery or LASIK) or certain medications (e.g., belladonna, furosemide, tetracycline).

Treating Photophobia

The best way to treat photophobia is to identify and treat the root of the problem. If dry eye is the cause, artificial tears can alleviate symptoms, including light sensitivity. If you experience light sensitivity when performing computer work, there are a number of changes you can make to minimize discomfort. When using a computer, your ambient lighting should be about half as bright as that typically found in most offices. Closing curtains, shades or blinds can eliminate unnecessary exterior light while using fewer light bulbs or lower intensity bulbs can alleviate discomfort. If possible, avoid positioning your computer screen in front of or behind windows.

Wearing wide-brimmed hats and wraparound sunglasses can alleviate light sensitivity when outdoors. Sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection are the best option. If you wear prescription eyeglasses, consider getting glasses with photochromic lenses, which automatically darken when outdoors. If you wear contact lenses, you may want to consider wearing prosthetic contact lenses. These lenses are designed to match your eye color and can reduce the amount of light that enters the eye.

If you are taking a medication that causes light sensitivity, talk to your general physician about discontinuing or replacing the medication.

Contact Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons

Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons is invested in your visual health and wellbeing. If you are experiencing discomfort due to light sensitivity, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our eye doctors. We can evaluate your eyes and symptoms to determine the underlying cause and an appropriate treatment plan.

Call or email Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons today to schedule an appointment for an eye exam.

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