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Photophobia

Definition

Photophobia is eye discomfort in bright light.

Alternative Names

Light sensitivity; Vision - light sensitive; Eyes - sensitivity to light

Considerations

Photophobia is a fairly common symptom. For many people, photophobia is not due to any disease. Severe photophobia may occur with eye problems and can cause severe eye pain even in relatively low light.

Common Causes

  • Acute iritis or uveitis (inflammation inside eye)
  • Burns to the eye
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Drugs such as amphetamines, atropine, cocaine, cyclopentolate, idoxuridine, phenylephrine, scopolamine, trifluridine, tropicamide, and vidarabine
  • Excessive wearing of contact lenses, or wearing badly fitted contact lenses
  • Eye disease, injury, or infection (such as chalazion, episcleritis, glaucoma)
  • Eye testing when the eyes have been dilated
  • Meningitis
  • Migraine headache

Home Care

You can reduce the discomfort of light sensitivity by:

  • Avoiding sunlight
  • Closing your eyes
  • Wearing dark glasses
  • Darkening the room

If eye pain is severe, see your health care provider to determine the cause of light sensitivity. Proper treatment may cure the problem. Seek urgent medical attention if your pain is moderate to severe, even in low-light conditions.

Call your health care provider if

Call your doctor if light sensitivity is severe or painful -- for example, if you need to wear sunglasses indoors.

Also call if the sensitivity occurs with headaches, red eye or blurred vision or does not go away in a day or two.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The doctor will perform a physical examination, including an eye exam. You may be asked the following questions:

  • When did the light sensitivity begin?
  • Does it hurt all the time or just sometimes?
  • How bad is it?
  • Do you need to wear dark glasses or stay in dark rooms?
  • Did a doctor recently dilate your pupils?
  • Have you used any eye drops?
  • Do you use contact lenses?
  • Have you used soaps, lotions, cosmetics, or other chemicals around your eyes?
  • Have you been around dust, wind, sun, pollen, or chemicals?
  • Does anything make the sensitivity better or worse?
  • Have you been injured?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Pain in the eye
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Neck stiffness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sore or wound in eye
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling elsewhere in the body
  • Changes in hearing

The following tests may be done:

References

Godfrey WA. Acute anterior uveitis. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Clinical Ophthalmology. 15th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 40.

Troost BT. Migraine and other headaches. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Clinical Ophthalmology. 15th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 16.

Steinemann TL, Ehlers W, Suchecki J. Contact lens-related complications. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 4.24.

Sharma R, Brunette DD. Ophthalmology. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 69.


Review Date: 6/1/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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