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Photophobia, Glare Sensitivity, Light Sensitivity 

What is photophobia?

  • While there is no scientific consensus on the definition of photophobia or the "fear of light," clinically speaking, we use the term "photophobia" or "photosensitivity" to describe a patient who has an exacerbation of pain or discomfort in the eye or head when exposed to a light source.

  • Light sensitivity can significantly impact quality of life and lead people to avoidant behavior that may prohibit them from things they enjoy like using the computer, going outside, or working in fluorescent environments.

  • It is very common (~90%) for patients with migraine or headaches to experience light sensitivity during their headaches, but many post-concussion and migraine patients also suffer from light sensitivity in general - even without a headache.

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Car Lights

What causes photophobia?

Photophobia can have multiple causes including migraine, brain injury, dry eye, inflammation in the eye, oculomotor dysfunction, and medication use (just to name a few)

How do you treat photophobia?

Treatment depends upon what is actually causing the light sensitivity. In some cases avoidance of light or use of tinted lenses/sunglasses is necessary, but in other cases avoidance of light and use of tinted lenses/sunglasses can actually aggravate or worsen the photophobia. Some tints are specifically created and scientifically shown to improve specific types photophobia


The key to treatment is understanding the underlying etiology and treating that appropriately. Since many patients can have multiple causes to their light sensitivity, it is important that they see an experienced eye care provider like a neuro-optometrist to appropriately diagnose and manage their light sensitivity


Image by Tommaso Scalera

Photophobia and 

Dry Eye

Patients with a history of brain injury are 2x more likely to have dry eye than the general population. They are also more likely to have neuropathic eye pain.  Both conditions can cause light sensitivity

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