Photophobia: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment.


Photophobia is an increased sensitivity and aversion to light. You may squint or even feel pain and discomfort in your eyes due to photophobia. It can be a symptom of many conditions, such as migraines , eye injuries, and cataracts .

If you have photophobia, it is important to see your doctor to determine the cause and correct it. It is important to address the cause of photophobia, and you can also take steps to reduce the discomfort caused by photophobia.

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin


Photophobia can affect people of any age. This is often a benign and recurring experience (not medically serious), but can develop due to illness. You should seek medical attention if you are experiencing photophobia for the first time because you may need treatment.

Photophobia usually affects both eyes equally. However, sometimes eye problems can cause photophobia in only one eye.

Symptoms of photophobia include:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Aversion to light
  • Feeling that normal lighting seems too bright
  • See brightly colored spots even in the dark or with your eyes closed
  • Problems reading or viewing images or text.
  • Pain or discomfort when looking at the light.
  • Squinting one or both eyes
  • Forehead pain
  • Tears from your eyes
  • Feeling that your eyes are too dry
  • Feeling that you want to close your eyes

Photophobia is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea, and headache.


There are a number of situations and diseases that can cause photophobia.

Increased sensitivity to pain

Migraines are the most common cause of recurring photophobia. Some people experience photophobia during the prodromal phase of a migraine before it reaches its peak. However, photophobia can also accompany the most intense phase of a migraine, or it can occur within a day or two after it goes away.

Fatigue, trigeminal neuralgia , facial neuropathy, head trauma, and fibromyalgia can be associated with increased sensitivity to pain and discomfort, which can manifest as photophobia.

Headache or face pain

Tension headaches, dental problems, meningitis, or an optic nerve disorder (such as optic neuritis due to multiple sclerosis) can irritate the eyes and cause photophobia. Sometimes photophobia can be the first sign of one of these conditions.

Eye problems

Photophobia can be quite serious if it is caused by eye conditions. In situations like this, where your eyes cannot adequately protect you from light, moderate light can appear unbearably bright.

When eye problems are at the root of photophobia, this sensation can be accompanied by severe pain, red eyes, and vision changes.

Common eye conditions that cause photophobia include:

  • Light eyes
  • Albinism
  • Dry eyes
  • Late students
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Uveitis (infection or inflammation of the eyes)
  • waterfalls
  • Glaucoma
  • Retina detachment


Many medications temporarily cause photophobia. Tetracycline, an antibiotic, often causes photophobia.

Other medications that can cause this effect include:

  • Methotrexate
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Haloperidol
  • Chloroquine
  • Methylphenidate

Behavior problems

Anxiety, depression, psychosis, drug use, and withdrawal symptoms can cause photophobia. Children and adults with autism can be hypersensitive to environmental stimuli and are often disturbed or bothered by light, noise, or unexpected sensations.

Physiology of photophobia

Some of the conditions that cause photophobia are related to the eye itself, and others affect how the body detects pain. Conditions that affect the eyes, such as dilated pupils or light eyes, actually allow too much light to enter the eyes, which is inherently unpleasant.

Migraines and trigeminal neuralgia make the eyes and head so sensitive that even non-painful sensations, such as touch, sounds, smells, and light, can be unusually uncomfortable. Diseases such as meningitis, uveitis, and retinal detachment cause pain due to inflammation and damage to structures in or around the eyes, which can make common irritants like light unbearable.

The trigeminal nerve is the nerve that controls the sensitivity of the face and eyes and is believed to mediate some of the discomforts associated with photophobia.

Disease or change in the function of the retina, which normally captures light, is also believed to play a role.


Your healthcare provider will determine the cause of your photophobia by listening to your medical history, physical and eye exams, and possibly some specialized diagnostic tests.

The first thing your doctor will ask you is if your symptoms appear all the time or at a specific time. They will also ask if you are experiencing symptoms other than photophobia.

Your physical exam will include an assessment of your neurological function, including your strength, reflexes, coordination, and sensation. Your healthcare provider will also likely check your eye movements, vision, and whether your pupils (black circles in the colored part of the eye) will narrow or shrink in response to light.

Your healthcare professional will also check the retina, nerves, and blood vessels behind your eyes with an ophthalmoscopy, a painless, non-invasive exam of your eyes. Ophthalmoscopy can detect cataracts, retinal problems, nerve and blood vessel disorders, or glaucoma. Your pupils may need to be dilated with medicated eye drops to make this step of the test more sensitive.

After the medical exam, you may need other tests, depending on your complaints and the results of the medical exam. Other tests you may need include:

  • Ocular tonometry: Tonometry measures fluid pressure in the eye and is often used to detect glaucoma. You may briefly feel slight pressure or warm air while this device measures your eye pressure. While it is not painful or dangerous, you can get pain relieving eye drops before the test to make you more comfortable.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT): OCT is used to detect conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. It is a painless and non-invasive test that uses light waves to obtain images of the retina. Your pupils may need to be dilated to make the images from this test more useful.
  • Fluorescence angiography: This test involves injecting a dye into a blood vessel (usually your arm). The dye makes the blood vessels in the eye more visible. Your healthcare provider will take pictures to look for a leak or other problem in the blood vessels in your eye.
  • Blood test: You may need a blood test to check for infection, inflammation, or hormonal imbalances. These results can help your doctor diagnose conditions that may affect your eye, nerves, or brain.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain (MRI): If you are concerned that you may have pressure, swelling, or infection in or around the brain, you may need an MRI of the brain.
  • Magnetic resonance angiography of the brain (MRA) or computed tomography angiography (CTA): While fluorescence angiography is used to examine the blood vessels of the eye, an MRA or CT scan of the brain creates an image of the blood vessels of the brain. brain. If you are concerned that there may be swelling, bleeding, or blockage of the blood vessels in your brain, you may need one of these tests.

Watch out

There are two aspects to treating your photophobia. One aspect involves treating the underlying cause. It is important to diagnose the cause of your symptoms because conditions that cause photophobia are treated in different ways.

For example, if you have optic neuritis due to multiple sclerosis, you will need medicine to treat your multiple sclerosis. If you have cataracts, you may need surgery. Photophobia can be a sign of glaucoma, and if glaucoma turns out to be the root of your symptoms, you may need medication or surgery. If your photophobia is caused by a migraine, you may need over-the-counter or prescription migraine treatments.

Another aspect of photophobia treatment aims to alleviate its symptoms. While your underlying medical condition is being treated, it may take days or longer for your photophobia to improve. There are several things you can do to stay comfortable as your condition improves.

  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Reduce exposure to light.
  • Wear green light or polarized lenses whenever possible, because this does not cause photophobia as much as other colors.
  • Use eye drops for comfort.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) after speaking with your healthcare provider.
  • Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of prescription pain relievers.
  • Non-invasive transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can provide some relief for people with photophobia and eye pain.
  • Botulinum toxin A injections have been used to treat photophobia, which does not go away with medication, but with good results.

Be prepared to combat photophobia from time to time if you experience recurring migraines. Make sure you have sunglasses, a hat, and comfortable lighting in an easily accessible location to minimize the burden of photophobia.

Get the word of drug information

Photophobia is an unpleasant symptom that can usually be controlled with lifestyle changes, such as wearing sunglasses and dimming lights. However, this could be a sign of a serious health or eye problem. If you don’t have a diagnosis that explains the cause of your photophobia, you should seek medical attention and talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

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