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Some people (you may be one of them) find it difficult to keep their eyes open in brightly lit settings, including sunlight, fluorescent light, and incandescent light. The uncontrollable desire to squint or close your eyes, often accompanied by headaches, is known as photophobia — sensitivity to light.


No, photophobia isn’t the fear of light, but the term phobia is used to refer to the eyes’ aversion to light. Photophobia itself is not a disease, it is the symptom or side effect of another eye condition or treatment.

Some of the most common causes of light sensitivity are corneal abrasion and nervous conditions, such as meningitis. People with lighter eye colors usually experience some mild photophobia because they don’t have darker eye pigments to absorb harsh light. Medications such as belladonna, doxycycline, quinine, tetracycline, and furosemide are known to cause light sensitivity as well.

Light sensitivity may also be a temporary side effect of a medical procedure, such as having your eyes dilated for an examination. The sensitivity should fade after a couple of hours. However, if your eyes stay sensitive for a prolonged period of time (days after the procedure), you should contact your eye doctor immediately.


The first step for treatment is to visit an eyecare professional. Your optometrist will be able to determine the root cause of your photophobia and provide direction for treatment. If the photophobia trigger is a medication, your doctor may be able to prescribe a new medication without photophobia as a side effect.

If the root cause cannot be treated, or is the side effect of a necessary medication, you will need to consider how to shield your eyes from bright light.

Some of the best options for protecting photophobic eyes include:

  • Wide-brim hats
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Light shields designed for prescription eyewear
  • Photochromatic lenses designed to grow dimmer in bright light
  • Computer glasses designed to filter harsh blue light from straining your eyes

Be aware of other conditions accompanying your photophobia. If you are experiencing nausea, blurry vision, itchy eyes, redness, swelling, or pain, you may have a more severe condition. Your doctor will ask you questions and examine for other symptoms to deduce what is causing your light sensitivity.

Do you squint and have trouble keeping your eyes open in the light? If so, you may have a condition causing photophobia. Contact Silverstein Eye Centers today at (816) 358-3600 or request your appointment online. We can serve you at our convenient location in Independence/Kansas City.

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