Light Sensitivity (Photophobia)

Dr. Russel Lazarus, December 20, 2020
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Light sensitivity is one of the most common visual complaints. 

Light sensitivity, clinically termed photophobia, can cause discomfort in the presence of natural and artificial light, and can significantly impact your quality of life.

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Photophobia can result from many different conditions and has been shown to affect:

Symptoms of photophobia

The symptoms of photophobia can be mild to severe and include: 

  • Eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Frequent blinking
  • Squinting or closing the eyes

If you experience any of these symptoms contact an eye doctor near you.

What causes photophobia? 

Photophobia can be caused by a wide variety of ocular and medical conditions.

If you are experiencing increased sensitivity to light, schedule an appointment for an eye exam to rule out a serious eye or medical condition. 

Eye conditions that can cause photophobia include: 

Other causes of photophobia include:

TBI and photophobia 

Photophobia that develops following a TBI or concussion can result from any of the following problems in the brain:

Oxygen deficiency. In some cases, an oxygen deficiency in the thalamus can occur following a TBI. This can cause the brain to be overwhelmed by certain visual stimuli, including bright light.

Autonomic nervous system (ANS). If the ANS becomes dysregulated following a TBI, the pupils may dilate too wide and let in too much light for the visual system to process.

Vestibular system. The vestibular system regulates balance and motion. If there is a discrepancy in either of those areas following a TBI, the brain may compensate by increasing eye sensitivity.

Superior colliculus. The superior colliculus is responsible for visual mapping and coordinating with the other senses. An imbalance in this area following a TBI can cause hypersensitivity among the senses, including vision.

Can a vision problem cause photophobia?

In some cases, a problem within the visual system can cause an increased sensitivity to light. 

Photophobia that is persistent, though unrelated to an eye or medical condition, may be the result of a disruption between the eye’s light-detecting cells and the optical nerve in the back of the eye.

Moreover, a disruption within the eye-brain connections that results in eye misalignment can also lead to photophobia.

How is photophobia treated?

If a vision problem is causing or worsening your photophobia, your eye doctor may recommend a personalized neuro-optometric rehabilitation program.

This therapeutic program involves the use of specialized lenses and prisms, as well as visual exercises to strengthen the neural connections and treat the underlying cause of your symptoms.

To determine if you can benefit from neuro-optometric rehabilitation, schedule a functional vision evaluation with an eye doctor today.