light sensitivity

4 Proven Explanations for Painful Light Sensitivity

Do you ever go outside on a sunny day and the bright light actually causes pain in your eyes?  Or maybe you walk into a brightly-lit room and immediately feel the need to squint?  This negative reaction to light is known as photophobia, or light sensitivity.  Photophobia is not an eye disease, but rather a symptom of a number of possible conditions.

Possible Reasons for Light Sensitivity

There are a number of possibilities when it comes to determining why your eyes are sensitive to light.  Some proven causes include:

Migraine headaches

Migraines are severe headaches that can be triggered by a number of factors, such as hormonal changes, stress or the environment.  Light sensitivity is a very common symptom of migraines and many people feel the need to dim the lights during a migraine attack in order to help ease the pain.

Conditions That Affect the Brain

Photophobia can be associated with certain serious brain conditions.  Symptoms of these conditions can include inflammation in or surrounding the brain, or bleeding near the brain.  These conditions can be life-threatening and immediate care should be sought if they are suspected.

  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Subarachnoid hemmorrhage
  • Mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) or concussions

Conditions That Affect the Eyes

Light sensitivity can also be caused by a number of eye conditions including:

  • Dry eye syndrome – tears do not provide adequate moisture
  • Conjunctivitis – also known as “pink eye”
  • Cataracts – cloudy coverings over the lenses of the eyes
  • Corneal abrasion – a scratch or injury to the cornea
  • Scleritis – inflammation of the white part of the eye


Certain medications have been known to cause excess light sensitivity for some people, including:

  • Some antibiotics
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Certain acne medications
  • Medications used to treat malaria
  • Some heart medications
  • Certain diabetes drugs

What to Do for Photophobia

As previously stated, light sensitivity is a result of an underlying condition.  Therefore, treatment is most often accomplished by addressing that specific condition.  Once the underlying condition is treated, the light sensitivity should resolve on its own.  Additionally, you can try the following suggestions:

  • Wear quality sunglasses with polarized lenses when outdoors
  • Ask your doctor if light sensitivity is a side effect of any medications you are currently taking
  • Try to increase natural lighting at the office by turning off the fluorescent bulbs and opening window blinds
  • Get regular vision and medical exams to detect any abnormalities as early as possible


At Family Vision Development Center, we can help determine the underlying cause of your photophobia and work with you to discover the best treatment options.  Regular comprehensive vision exams are the best way to monitor your eye health, as we can quickly notice any changes in vision and start treatments as early as possible.  Contact our Aurora office at 630-862-2020 to learn more or to schedule an appointment.