Photophobia is eye discomfort in bright light.
Light sensitivity; Vision - light sensitive; Eyes - sensitivity to light
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 may include:
- Acute iritis or uveitis (inflammation inside the 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
- Migraine headache
- Recovery from eye surgery
Things you can do to ease light sensitivity include:
- Avoid sunlight
- Close your eyes
- Wear dark glasses
- Darken 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 health care provider 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 provider will perform a physical exam, 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 provider 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:
- Corneal scraping
- Lumbar puncture (most often done by a neurologist)
- Pupil dilation
- Slit-lamp examination
Ehlers W, Suchecki J, Steinemann TL. Contact lens-related complications. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 4.24.
Freidl KB, Troost BT, Moster ML. Migraine and other headaches. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Clinical Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:vol. 2, chap 16.
Godfrey WA. Acute anterior uveitis. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Clinical Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:vol. 4, chap 40.
Sharma R, Brunette DD. Ophthalmology. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 71.
Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.