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Understanding Photo-Phobia: When Your Eyes Don't Want To See The Light

Do you know you can develop a phobia for light? The medical term for this condition is photo-phobia, or light sensitivity. It is a condition in which light causes discomfort or even pain in your eyes. Photo-phobia is an extremely disruptive condition, given how much light plays an important role in daily life.

The Symptoms

The main symptom of photo-phobia is discomfort when light falls into your eyes. Other symptoms include headaches, nausea, and the need to squint the eyes when they are exposed to light. If you have a mild form of photo-phobia, your symptoms may only flare up when your eyes are exposed to bright light. In severe cases, however, any light intensity may induce the associated discomforts. All kinds of light, including sunlight and fluorescent light, may trigger photo-phobia.


Sensitivity to light isn't exactly a single disease or a disease per se; it's actually a symptom of an underlying eye condition. For example, if you are suffering from light sensitivity, you may be having any of these eye conditions:

  • Ocular albinism – a genetic condition that reduces the pigmentation of the retina and iris part of the eyes.
  • Blepharospasm – A neurological condition that causes forcible closure of the eyelids.
  • Corneal abrasion – Physical scratches of the eyes.

In fact, photo-phobia can be a symptom of other health conditions that aren't even directly related to the eye. This is one of the reasons you shouldn't try self-diagnosis; you can easily make an error.

Coping Mechanisms and Treatment

There are different ways of coping with the condition, and they mostly involve reducing your eyes' exposure to light. Some of the coping mechanisms include:

  • Wearing wide-brimmed hats to reduce glare from sunlight.
  • Wearing sunglasses to reduce the intensity of light entering the eye.
  • Minimizing light intensity in your rooms, for example, by avoiding unnecessarily bright lights

The best thing to do, however, is to get a professional diagnosis of your condition. An eye exam, for example, will tell you what is wrong with your eyes or rule out your eyes as the origin of your light sensitivity. That way, you can focus on treating the root cause of the problem to get rid of it once and for all. Treatment may involve medication, prescription glasses, or even surgery depending on the cause of your light sensitivity and the progression of the disease. An optometrist may also advise you on more ways of minimizing the symptoms during the healing period.