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Photophobia

 

Definition

Photophobia is eye discomfort in bright light.

Alternative Names

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

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

The discomfort of light sensitivity can be reduced by avoiding sunlight, closing the eyes, wearing dark glasses, or darkening the room. However, the cause for the light sensitivity should be determined, since proper treatment may cure the problem. Seek urgent medical attention if pain is moderate to severe in low-light conditions.

Call your health care provider if

Call your doctor if light sensitivity is severe. For example, if you need to wear sunglasses indoors.

Also call if the sensitivity occurs with headaches, red eye or blurred vision or does not go away in a day or two.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

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

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

Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Pain in the eye
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Neck stiffness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sore or wound in eye
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling elsewhere in the body
  • Changes in hearing

The following tests may be done:

Considerations

Photophobia is a fairly common symptom. For many people, photophobia is not due to any underlying disease. Severe photophobia may be associated with eye problems and cause severe eye pain even in relatively low light.


Review Date: 4/13/2009
Reviewed By: Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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