What Makes the Eyes Sensitive to Light?


Wilmington eye patient sensitive to lightLight sensitivity, or photophobia, is a condition in which exposure to light hurts people’s eyes.

People with photophobia may experience pain or discomfort due to any kind of light exposure, including sunlight, fluorescent light, and incandescent light, needing to squint or close their eyes. They may also get headaches.

A number of factors can lead to light sensitivity. These include certain medications, diseases, and conditions. Below, the Wilmington team at Intracoastal Eye discusses the various factors that can cause a person to experience light-sensitivity.

Light Sensitivity Caused by Diseases and Conditions

Certain eye diseases and conditions may lead to light sensitivity, including the following:

  • Corneal abrasion
  • Uveitis
  • Cataracts
  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye
  • Keratitis
  • Dry eye
  • Eye allergies

Eye conditions aren’t the only conditions that can lead to light sensitivity, however. Other diseases and conditions may cause photophobia as well:

  • Meningitis
  • Keratosis follicularis spinulosa decalvans (KFSD)
  • Rabies
  • Botulism
  • Mercury poisoning
  • Migraines
  • Sunburn

Brain injuries and diseases, such as tumors in the pituitary gland, can also factor into eye pain and sensitivity to light.

Light Sensitivity Caused by Medications

Photophobia isn’t always a sign of an underlying condition or disease. There are certain medications that may result in light sensitivity as a side effect. Here’s a list:

  • Oral and estrogen-based contraceptives
  • Antihistamines
  • Belladonna
  • Furosemide
  • Quinine
  • Tetracycline
  • Doxycycline
  • Sulfonomides
  • Tricyclic anti-depressants

Other Causes of Photophobia

People with lighter-colored eyes (blue, grey and green) sometimes experience increased light sensitivity in bright sunlight. This occurs because lighter eyes have less pigmentation than darker eyes.

Contact lens irritations can result in light sensitivity too; for example, if a person wears contact lenses for too long or if the lenses don’t fit properly.

Contact an Eye-Care Professional   

Some cases of photophobia are easily remedied. For example, if you have lighter-colored eyes, you can wear UV-protected, polarized sunglasses for protection when you go outside.

Other cases, however, may be signs of underlying conditions or diseases, in which case you should speak to a doctor.

To learn more about photophobia and other eye conditions, call or email the team at Intracoastal Eye to speak to a qualified eye-care professional.