Arizona receives more than its fair share of sunshine. For some people, those bright beams of sunlight cause discomfort or pain. These people may suffer from photophobia, or light sensitivity, and may find that everyday life in the Sonoran desert is an uncomfortable experience until sunset.
Even though it feels like an issue in its own right, light sensitivity isn’t a condition. It’s a symptom of other health difficulties that your vision health professional should know about.
What is Photophobia?
The medical name for light sensitivity means “fear of light”. This may not be accurate in a literal sense, but for those who cope with the condition, it may feel like how they live their lives. Sunlight, bright indoor lights, and the headlights of oncoming traffic can all cause pain.
What are the Causes of Light Sensitivity?
Photophobia isn’t a medical condition by itself, though it is a very real issue that deserves medical attention. It is instead a symptom of other conditions. Common causes include:
- Migraine headaches. Light sensitivity is a very common symptom of migraine headaches. Some migraine sufferers report having light sensitivity even when they do not have a headache.
- Cluster and tension headaches. Like people with migraines, those who have other types of headaches regularly also report light sensitivity.
- Dry eye. People with dry eye may also find their eyes are sensitive to light.
- Various forms of eye swelling. People with uveitis (swelling inside the eye), iritis (swelling of the iris), and keratitis (swelling of the cornea) can cause light sensitivity.
- Cataracts, corneal abrasions, retinal damage, and conjunctivitis. Damage and inflammation inside the eye can cause temporary light sensitivity.
- Blepharospasm. This condition causes a person’s eyelids to close uncontrollably, and can also be a cause of light sensitivity.
- LASIK surgery. People who have had LASIK eye surgery may find they develop light sensitivity.
- Meningitis, brain injury, pituitary tumors, and supranuclear palsy. These serious conditions may have light sensitivity as a side effect.
Mental health conditions such as panic disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and agoraphobia can also cause light sensitivity. Medications such as some antibiotics, antimalarials, and heart medications may also cause temporary photophobia.