Anxiety can cause sensitivity to light

Photophobia - Definition, Symptoms, and Treatment


Photophobia (also known as "photophobia") causes those affected to avoid daylight and bright lamps. The causes are manifold. An examination by an ophthalmologist reveals whether an eye disease or a harmless trigger is behind it.


Photophobia is an increased sensitivity of the eyes to light. The phenomenon, also known as “photophobia” in German, causes those affected to experience daylight, neon light or the light of incandescent lamps to blink heavily or the To close eyes completely. Even those who do not suffer from photophobia know this, namely when they are suddenly exposed to very bright light. But those who are afraid of light feel dazzled even with normal everyday lighting.

What is photophobia?

Literally translated, photophobia means “fear of light” in German. However, it is usually not a psychological phenomenon as the word suggests; the term is mainly used in connection with physical causes. Photophobia of the eyes is a sensory disorder and usually will triggered by neurological or eye diseases. Those affected often avoid both daylight and artificial light in closed rooms. Some always wear sunglasses or - if the stress is correspondingly high - never leave the house at all. Since such a life is associated with far-reaching restrictions, it is worthwhile to have the cause of the photophobia clarified by a specialist and, if necessary, treated.

What causes photophobia?

Photophobia does not necessarily have to be caused by an eye disease. You can also be a Symptom of various diseases which do not directly affect the eyes. It can be a simple one viral infection or more serious causes like meningitis or a tumor act. This is another reason why it is important to have the eyes' sensitivity to light examined medically. A third category of causes are external effects on the eyes.

If the photophobia stems directly from the eyes, the following causes can be responsible:

Other diseases that cause photophobia include:

  • viral infection or inflammation which irritates the eyes
  • severe headaches, migraines and chronic fatigue syndromes
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the meninges)
  • rabies
  • botulism
  • Pituitary gland tumors


External influences that can trigger photophobia are:

  • direct UV radiation in the eyes
  • Photokeratitis or flashing (small injuries to the cornea as a result of strong sunlight)
  • Injuries from foreign objects in the eye
  • Contact of the eyes with toxic substances (e.g. cleaning agents)
  • improper handling of contact lenses


However, photophobia does not have to be a symptom of a serious illness or injury. Some people are just naturally more sensitive to light. In the case of people with albinism, it depends, for example with their lighter eye color. They are more sensitive to light because their eyes contain less pigment than dark eyes. However, these pigments protect against too bright light. Also a few prescription drugs such as antibiotics or drugs like amphetamines and cocaine can cause photophobia.

Symptoms of photophobia

The automatic eyelid closure protects against too bright light that could damage the retina. This mechanism also works in photophobic people, but they feel it also uncomfortably blinded by everyday light sources. Symptoms of photophobia include the need to close your eyes or blink. In addition burning and pain the eyes frequently. Headaches can also be associated with increased sensitivity to light. Depending on the underlying cause, there are other complaints that point to different diagnoses.

Treatment of photophobia

For the successful treatment of a photophobia one must first the cause of which can be determined. The diagnosis is made by the family doctor, ophthalmologist or neurologist. As soon as the trigger is found, appropriate treatment can begin. For example, if the photophobia is triggered as a side effect by a certain drug, the family doctor could stop the latter and prescribe an alternative drug.

People who are particularly light-sensitive by nature can avoid bright sunlight and other light sources, for example by being outdoors wide-brimmed hats and more heavily tinted sunglasses wear with UV protection. Also one Glasses with photochromic lenses is worth considering in photophobia. The glasses darken automatically outdoors and also block almost 100 percent of the sun's UV radiation. In strong sunlight and reflective environments such as water, sand or snow, one can help polarized sunglasses. Your glasses offer additional protection against dazzling light reflections.