If lights hurt your eyes or seem brighter than usual, you may have photophobia, commonly referred to as light sensitivity. Light sensitivity is not itself an eye condition, but rather a symptom of an underlying eye impairment. Many conditions can cause light sensitivity and while this symptom may not seem like a vision-threatening concern, it can be indicative of serious risks to your eye health. If left unaddressed, these conditions that cause light sensitivity can become increasingly worse and cause vision impairment. Your eye doctor can determine the cause of your photophobia during a comprehensive eye exam.
What Can Cause Light Sensitivity And When To See Your Eye Doctor
Although dry eyes are notorious for making eyes itchy and red and creating the sensation of grit in the eye, dry eyes can also cause photophobia. Dry eyes are one of the most common causes of light sensitivity and sometimes dry eye symptoms can be managed with the use of artificial tears and at-home remedies, and other times more intensive treatment is required if you are diagnosed with Dry Eye Syndrome (DES).
With the ever-increasing use of technology, many people now suffer from digital eye strain. This, and general eye strain from overuse, can make your eyes tired and sensitive to light while also causing headaches. If your light sensitivity is caused by eye strain, try to remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away from the close task you’re doing for at least 20 seconds. This will help your eyes adjust and reduce strain on your eyes and muscles in your head. Other precautions to take include purchasing blue light-blocking glasses and using screens as little as possible.
This is essentially a sunburn of the cornea and it is a temporary condition. Photokeratitis is caused by overexposure to UV rays that damage the cornea and it can cause blurry vision, a feeling of grittiness in the eyes, tearing, headaches, and more. Similar to how a sunburn feels worse when you are in sunlight, photokeratitis can cause sensitivity and pain when you look at light.
This is an inflammation of the eye, specifically of the cornea. It can be caused by infections, injuries, foreign objects in the eye, or wearing contact lenses for too long. Once the eye is infected, you will likely develop sensitivity to light, eye pain, eye redness, blurry vision, and more. Keratitis requires a visit to the eye doctor for prescription eye drops to fight any inflammation or infection. If left untreated, keratitis can get worse and lead to permanent corneal damage.
This is a scratch on your eye. This injury is often caused by a foreign body on the surface of the eye, such as sand or sawdust, and corneal abrasions can be rather painful. A corneal abrasion needs to be treated by an eye doctor, as untreated corneal abrasions can develop into corneal ulcers that can permanently damage the eye. A corneal abrasion can cause sensitivity to light as well as eye redness, blurry vision, and a feeling of grit in the eyes.
One symptom of glaucoma development is light sensitivity. As pressure builds up within the eye, it can make it painful to look at bright lights. Beyond this, some forms of glaucoma medication limit the amount your iris can expand and contract, which alters pupil dilation and changes how much light enters your eye. This can make light appear even brighter. Learn more about glaucoma by reading Everything You Need To Know About Glaucoma.
Don’t Live In The Dark: Address Your Light Sensitivity With An Eye Doctor
If you have developed a sensitivity to light, it may be only a mild and temporary symptom, but it may also be a warning sign of a serious eye condition that needs treatment. Since there are so many overlapping symptoms of the conditions that can cause light sensitivity, visiting an eye doctor is the only way to know what is causing your light sensitivity. At My Optometrist, our eye doctors in Calgary and Three Hills will examine your eyes and determine a diagnosis during a comprehensive eye exam so that you can understand your eye health and receive the treatment you need. To book an eye exam with one of our eye doctors, contact My Optometrist at one of our three locations at Health First in SE Calgary, Sunridge in NE Calgary, or Three Hills, AB. You can also call us or fill out the online contact form.
Q: Are there other causes of photophobia?
A: Yes, the list here highlights some common causes of newly developed photophobia but there are other eye conditions that can cause sensitivity to light. There are also neurological issues that cause communication problems between the eyes and the brain. If you develop sensitivity to light, it can be caused by a variety of factors and you need to visit your eye doctor.
Q: If I lose my vision, is there any way to restore it?
A: In general, no. Sometimes if a person develops cataracts and then has surgery their vision will be restored and some eye conditions are only temporary, such as photokeratitis (which can cause temporary vision loss in extreme cases), but typically if your vision is impaired due to an eye condition such as an infection, glaucoma, eye injury, or more, it is permanently impaired.
Q: What happens at an eye exam?
A: A comprehensive adult eye exam (for those between 19 and 64 years of age) at My Optometrist Calgary includes:
- A review of your past and present eye and general health issues, as well as your family history.
- A discussion of your visual needs at work or school, at home, and for leisure.
- Measurement of your current level of vision with and without your glasses or contact lenses, and determination of your prescription.
- Assessment of your ability to move and use both eyes together.
- Measurement of the pressure inside of your eyes.
- A visual field assessment to measure your peripheral vision
- Careful examination of the health of your eyes inside and outside. Drops to dilate your pupils may be recommended and administered.
- A photograph of the back of your eyes.