What is Photophobia, causes, symptoms, treatment, is it curable?

What is photophobia?

Photophobia is the sensitivity or intolerance to light, which can be caused by natural or artificial light. It is not a disease, but a symptom. It provides great discomfort in the eyes of those who suffer from this condition.

It occurs when the photosensitive cells of the retina do not support the excess of light, which results in the appearance of other symptoms.

All people have a certain sensitivity to light, as there are different degrees of photophobia. However, for people affected by other pathologies, the discomfort of this symptom is more intense.

In addition, it is common for photophobia to appear as a symptom of eye diseases such as cataracts , conjunctivitis , glaucoma , uveitis, dry eyes, among others.

This aversion to light may be more common in some people than in others, as it is for those with clear eyes (blue or green). They are more sensitive to light due to less pigmentation.

One of the determining factors for the intensity of photophobia is the size of the pupil. The larger the pupil, the greater the chance of having the symptom.

There are ways to prevent it, and in some cases, when it comes to the underlying disease, photophobia disappears.

Types

Photophobia can be divided into two main types: chronic photophobia and acute photophobia.

Chronic photophobia

Chronic photophobia strikes the patient for a long time. It can happen due to other diseases or be a natural condition, such as when it affects people with light eyes. It can be softened, but not cured.

Acute photophobia

This symptom, when it presents in an acute form, means that the patient has another pathology. Photophobia, in this case, can disappear when the root of the problem is treated.

Causes

Photophobia is caused by several factors. It may be related to other pathologies, to a genetic issue (such as albinism and people with light eyes) and to the use of some medications, for example.

Know the main reasons for this sensitivity to light to happen:

Migraine

migraine is a chronic disease whose main symptom was headache . Patients suffering from this disease experience pulsating pain, which usually affects only one side of the head.

This is a disease that starts but does not “end”. It arises in crises, and may increase over time. For some people, the symptoms are mild; for others, they can be intense.

Photophobia can happen when the patient is not in a crisis, but it is during these periods that it is strongest. It is common for people who suffer from migraine to prefer to stay in darker places, as it is more comfortable.

In addition, it is possible that, over time, they prefer to decrease the frequency watching television, spending a lot of time reading and even feeling discomfort looking at shiny objects.

Astigmatism

One of the major ophthalmological problems that presents photophobia as a symptom is astigmatism . This is a very common refractive error.

The person who has astigmatism finds it difficult to see from near and far, as a poor formation in the retina prevents the eye from having a uniform focus on the retina.

That way, the person sees blurred and distorted images. Astigmatism is treated with the use of glasses or contact lenses.

Read more: What are the symptoms of Astigmatism?

Flu

People with influenza can develop a greater sensitivity to light. The flu virus causes, among other symptoms, impairment of the eyes, making them more sensitive to light.

Traumas and injuries

Photophobia can happen in only one eye. This occurs, in most cases, in cases where the patient has suffered an injury to the iris, the colored part of the eyes.

These traumas can occur for several reasons, such as accidents and facial injuries. It is one of the causes of photophobia because it compromises vision, leaving the eyes more sensitive.

Contact lenses

Excessive use of contact lenses, or the use of damaged lenses, are one of the causes that cause photophobia.

When the patient is sensitive to light within this condition, it is important to consult the opinion of an ophthalmologist to understand why this is happening.

To consult the possibility of exchanging the lenses for glasses or to exchange the damaged lenses, it is necessary to go through this consultation with the professional of this area, to avoid complications.

Dry eyes

It is when our eyes do not receive adequate lubrication, due to the lack of tears in sufficient quantity and quality. This problem can affect one or both eyes.

The eye can look like this even when there is no eye problem. External factors such as the sun, pollution, air conditioning, wind and any situation that allows the air to become drier contribute to this.

In addition, staying in front of electronic devices for a long time also causes this dryness in the eyes. This condition is related to the number of times we blink our eyes.

When we blink, it is a way for our eye to stay protected and lubricated. When we fail to do this often enough, our eyes are too exposed and can become dry.

Wearing contact lenses for a long time can also influence this problem. Photophobia is one of the symptoms that can appear, due to the discomfort and fragility that the eye condition presents.

Inflammation

This extreme sensitivity to light can be a response to an inflammation that has occurred in the eyeball, inside or outside it. Most of the time, this is a symptom of another eye disease. The main associated pathologies are:

Cataract

Cataracts are a disease that affects the lens, a natural transparent lens of our eyes. It gradually reduces the sharpness of images. This is because the disease causes the opacity of the lens.

As a barrier, this opacity prevents images from reaching the retina clearly, because the lens has this cloudy aspect.

It is common for people over 60 to have a degree of cataract. Photophobia can be one of the symptoms related to the disease, but it is solved with surgery.

Blepharitis

The Blepharitis is an inflammation that occurs on the outside of the eyelids. Its symptoms are the appearance of redness, burning, tearing, accumulation of secretion in the eyelashes and sensitivity to light.

This inflammation is caused by dust mites, and can also be caused by bacteria and dermatological problems, such as rosacea. Despite having a cure and treatment, it is common for blepharitis to return after some time.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the increase in the internal pressure of the eye caused by the accumulation of fluid that fills part of our eyes, known as aqueous humor. This liquid is constantly produced by our body and is essential for the functioning of the optic nerve.

The optic nerve is like a cable responsible for conducting information received by the eye to the brain. It is a kind of messenger of the images that the eye captures, which takes them to the brain to interpret.

Thus, when this liquid cannot get out or its production is very intense, it ends up causing this pressure and glaucoma happens.

This is not a rare disease. There are estimates that 67 million people worldwide suffer from glaucoma. It is within the initial symptoms that photophobia affects patients.

Keratitis

The keratitis is a corneal inflammation that occurs in the transparent protective layer and the eyes. It is caused by an infection, and can be of viral, bacterial origin, by amoebas and fungi.

The lack of hygiene is also a condition that allows the onset of this disease, especially regarding the handling and storage of contact lenses. In some cases, keratitis is related to the patient’s low immunity.

This inflammation, therefore, causes fragility of the ocular structures and photophobia appears as a consequence of this condition.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a more common inflammation in the summer and very characteristic for making the eyes red. It causes inflammation of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane that lines the inner part of the eyelids, and also in the sclera, the white part of the eye.

When inflamed, the blood vessels in the sclera have this red appearance. Usually, conjunctivitis lasts between 1 and 2 weeks, with no sequelae.

It is common for the entire eye structure to become more fragile due to infection, which makes the patient more sensitive to light. In these cases, it is recommended to avoid brightness as much as possible and wear glasses with photosensitive lenses.

Uveite

Uveitis is the inflammation that occurs in the uvea, the middle layer of the eyeball made up of the iris, choroid and ciliary body. It can affect one or both eyes. When it affects both eyes, it is called bilateral uveitis.

The choroid and the ciliary body are between the retina and the sclera (white part of the eye) and are responsible for the flow of blood to the deeper layers of the retina.

Photophobia is one of the main symptoms of this inflammation, however, it presents pain in the eye and around the eyes together with the sensitivity to light.

This inflammation can be severe and even cause blindness. It is classified into three types, according to the time of evolution: acute, subacute and chronic.

Chalazion

Chalazion is a disease that causes cysts in the body. It is neither contagious nor malignant. These nodules are usually between 2 and 8 mm in size.

It can develop near the upper or lower eyelid, affecting one or both eyes. It is a common disease and disappears spontaneously.

This disease does not present great risks, but it must be treated properly. When these cysts appear close to the eye and their size is considerable, they can affect vision, causing symptoms such as photophobia, blurred vision and decreased eyelid cleft.

Scleritis

Scleritis is an inflammation that occurs in the sclera (white part of the eye) and is considered a serious eye disease, although rare.

This disease occurs in about 0.1% of emergency cases in ophthalmology, being the most severe inflammation that occurs in the sclera.

It is more frequent in women aged between 30 and 50 years. Scleritis has two types of classification: anterior scleritis (diffuse, nodular and necrotizing) and posterior scleritis.

In addition to photophobia, it can present as burning symptoms, pain and redness in the eyes.

Episcleritis

Episcleritis is a common and benign eye disease. It causes inflammation of the episclera, the layer of tissue that lines the sclera, from the cornea to the optic nerve.

It causes symptoms such as photophobia, red eyes, eye pain and burning. This disease can happen at any age, affecting both men and women.

The cause of this inflammation is unknown, in most cases. However, there are indications that it is related to systemic diseases such as arthritis , Crohn’s disease , polyarthritis nodosa, etc.

In addition to trauma, contact with chemicals and objectives in the eye, it can also be caused by herpes viruses (zoster and simple) and by diseases such as syphilis , hepatitis B , brucellosis, among others. In rare cases, episcleritis can be caused by the presence of fungi and parasites.

Use of drugs

Drug use can cause photophobia or make symptoms more intense, as they cause pupil dilation (mydriasis). When this happens, a greater amount of light “enters” the eye, which can make it more sensitive.

Some of the drugs that trigger this condition are cocaine, amphetamines, scopolamine, atropine, tropicamide, etc.

Medicines

Like drugs, some medications also cause pupil dilation, such as pain relievers, anticonvulsants and antihistamines and specific eye drops for that. For the doctor to find this cause during the diagnosis, it is necessary to consult the use of any of these drugs by the patient.

Groups of risk

Photophobia is a common symptom and can affect everyone in some way. That’s because the excess light causes a natural discomfort in our eyes. However, for some people this discomfort is much greater, as they are susceptible to this condition. Find out which groups are most affected:

Kids

Children need greater care when it comes to photophobia. It is normal for young children to be unable to understand or recognize that they have this symptom.

Photophobia in newborns, for example, may indicate that the baby has congenital glaucoma, a rare and hereditary disease. As it is a serious disease, it must be treated immediately, as it can cause blindness.

Thus, it is essential to try to understand in the little ones if there is a sign of this sensitivity to light, because in some cases, this symptom is the only sign that there is something wrong. It is so with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis , which has photophobia as its main clue.

It is also common for children to be more sensitive to small accidents, such as playing, at home or at school. These traumas, although mild, can cause eye damage and photophobia can appear as a symptom.

Therefore, those responsible should pay special care and try to understand if there is anything abnormal in the behavior, if the child has eye pain, headaches and appears to be uncomfortable in the presence of light.

It is also important, as a preventive way, to encourage children to express themselves and report what they are feeling. Thus, it is possible to seek a specialist to understand the cause and initiate an appropriate treatment.

Albinos

Albino people are more sensitive to photophobia because they have less pigment in the iris, which helps to protect our eyes from light. That is: clear eyes, greater sensitivity.

Most people with albinism have some vision impairment, because they have a deficiency in melanin, a fundamental protein for our eyes and optic nerve.

It is common to have very light blue or brown eyes, somewhat translucent. Having a more transparent retina and iris allows blood vessels located at the back of the eyeball to be more visible.

This fact may give the impression that the eyes of albino people are pink or red, but it is only a consequence of having less pigmented eyes.

Therefore, people with this genetic condition should take more stringent care with the sun and places with extreme clarity.

Light-eyed people

Just as it is for people with albinism, people with light eyes also suffer more from clarity, for the same reason.

The lack of pigmentation in the iris makes these people naturally more sensitive to light and therefore feel more discomfort than people with dark eyes.

People with light eyes should adopt some practices for the day to day, to have the symptoms of photophobia more smoothed. The use of sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection is an effective measure for this.

Pupil size

Even people who are not at risk may someday suffer from this symptom. One of the factors that can lead to the appearance of photophobia is the size of the pupil.

The larger the pupil, the greater the chances of suffering discomfort with the light, as this is part of our eyes responsible for the passage of light from the external environment to the sensory organs of the retina.

Photophobia, when it occurs in people with healthy eyes, is rarely accompanied by symptoms such as redness and excessive production of tears.

Symptoms

Photophobia is a great discomfort that the patient feels in relation to light. It can occur due to a natural condition (clear eyes) or some related disease.

This sensitivity can be mild or more intense, depending on the pathology that caused it.

It is normal for other symptoms to appear alongside this sensitivity to light. Are they:

  • Redness in the eyes;
  • Tearing;
  • Blurry vision;
  • Burning eyes;
  • Pain in the eyes;
  • Eye swelling;
  • Headaches.

The effort made by the patient who suffers from photophobia, in order to keep his eyes open, is one of the factors that influences the development of these headaches and in the region of the eyes.

How is the diagnosis of photophobia made?

The diagnosis of photophobia is made by reporting the symptoms by the patient and, when necessary, a physical examination, which includes the eye exam with the ophthalmologist .

Depending on the underlying pathology, the patient may also have to see a general practitioner or neurologist.

For the diagnosis to be carried out properly, the doctor must question some habits and behaviors of the patient. Some factors to note are:

  • Use of contact lenses;
  • Use of soaps, cosmetics or any chemical close to the eyes;
  • Possibility of a doctor having recently dilated the patient’s pupils;
  • Exposure to wind, sun, dust and other products that can irritate the eyes;
  • Pain intensity and frequency (if any);
  • The need to always stay with sunglasses or in very closed environments;
  • What factors contribute to improve or worsen sensitivity;
  • Use of medications;
  • Eye injury.

Is photophobia curable?

Photophobia is a symptom that cannot be cured in all cases. When the problem that caused this sensitivity can be treated, the possibility of photophobia disappearing is greater.

Therefore, the treatment and a possible cure for this symptom varies from patient to patient, as the causes of photophobia are wide-ranging.

However, when the patient presents this symptom as a natural condition and not due to a pathology, such as people with clear eyes and albinos, what is done is a treatment to alleviate this discomfort and some changes in habits.

Environmental factors must also be considered. People who spend a lot of time in dark places and are not exposed to natural lighting, it is common for them to be more sensitive. This is a behavior that can potentiate this aversion to light.

The ideal, in these cases, is to make an adaptation process, little by little, so that one can remain in the light without feeling pain and great discomfort.

What is the treatment?

The treatment of photophobia should be carried out according to the diagnosis. Each cause requires a different treatment. However, there are some ways to treat and alleviate the symptoms of this disease that apply to the most common cases. Get to know:

Wearing sunglasses

For people who suffer from photophobia, the less exposure of the eyes to light, the better. Wearing sunglasses prevents direct light from entering the eyes and, therefore, relieves the discomfort caused in patients with this disease. However, it is necessary to look for quality and specific lenses for this case.

Photosensitive lenses

Photosensitive lenses are more recommended for those who suffer from sensitivity to light. Everyone should wear sunglasses with quality lenses that block UV rays.

For those with photophobia, photosensitive ones are interesting because they adapt to the brightness of the environment, automatically darkening and lightening. It is a good alternative for those who have a vision problem, such as myopia and astigmatism, and do not want to keep switching from sunglasses to prescription glasses.

Photochromic lenses FL-41

They are lenses used in sunglasses, which block blue and red. This contributes to decrease the sensitivity to light and the use is also valid for cloudy days.

Contact lenses

Contact lenses work as a cause in some cases and as a treatment in others. However, use is only necessary in extreme cases.

In the treatment, the use of aesthetic (colored) contact lenses is recommended. They help to reduce the amount of light that enters the eyes. It can be an alternative for people with light eyes, to relieve the symptoms of photophobia.

However, the use of these lenses must be done under the advice of an ophthalmologist and with the necessary care.

Eye drops and ointments

In cases where photophobia was caused by an eye disease, it is possible that the treatment is carried out with the use of eye drops and ointments, as in the case of dry eyes, which requires the use of lubricating eye drops.

Medicines

Some medications can cause photophobia. When this occurs, the patient should go to the doctor and possibly suspend the use or replace it with another medicine.

It is common, after locating the particular drug that is causing this sensitivity and suspending the use, that the symptom stabilizes or disappears.

Medicines for photophobia

Photophobia must be treated according to the cause. Thus, each pathology requires the use (or not) of medications as needed.

There are no specific drugs to block sensitivity to light, only external measures that help in the process of reducing discomfort.

Living / Prognosis

Because it is not a disease, but rather a symptom, photophobia is a condition that can be reversed or mitigated.

People who experience this horror in the light can lead a comfortable life when they choose to change their habits. The first step is to protect your eyes with sunglasses or use caps and hats that prevent light – and ultraviolet rays – from directly reaching your eyes.

Complications

Photophobia can cause some complications. The symptom itself already causes great discomfort in the life of those who suffer from this sensitivity, but it can be more serious for some people. See how:

Day blindness

Photophobia, in the most severe cases, can cause daytime blindness, also known as hemeralopia .

People who suffer from photophobia can develop this blindness during the day, due to excessive brightness.

It is considered a serious complication, which prevents the patient from carrying out their daily activities normally. It should be treated with the eye doctor.

Difficulty driving

Being in traffic requires that the driver be attentive to all the signs, cars and people that pass on the streets. It means taking extra care, for your safety and the safety of others.

For some people who suffer from photophobia, driving can be tricky. In addition to the sunlight, reflections from other cars can cause pain, burning and even prevent vision.

In this case, it becomes a complication, as it commits the patient with this sensitivity to light to perform a daily task without suffering discomfort or risk.

Within this framework, the patient must resort to treatments and wear sunglasses while driving during the day.

Prevention

Some simple measures can be taken to prevent photophobia, since everyone is subject to a certain degree of sensitivity. See what they are:

Lubricate the eyes

It is important to keep your eyes well lubricated to prevent photophobia and possible complications. For this, it may be necessary to use eye drops or even just blink at an appropriate frequency.

Use of sunglasses

This is the main form of treatment and prevention of photophobia. The use of sunglasses with suitable lenses is essential for anyone. However, there must be a concern about the quality of the lenses. Make sure to protect your eyes from UV rays.

Moderate use of electronic devices

Spending a lot of time using computers, cell phones and watching television can make our eyes more sensitive to light. One reason for this is because we don’t blink as much as we should when we are focused on these activities.

A preventive way is to take breaks of 1 minute every 1 ½ hours. During this short interval, try to look at a distant point and relax your eye muscles.

Besides being a way to curb the rise of photophobia, reduces potential headaches and fatigue visual.

This is a healthy practice especially for those who spend most of the day in front of these devices, whether for work, study or entertainment. When pausing and choosing a point to fix your eyes, you shouldn’t strain your eyes.

Alcoholic beverages

Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can increase sensitivity to light. So avoiding it is a way to prevent photophobia.

Accessories

Using accessories such as caps and wide-brimmed hats, along with sunglasses, can help protect and reduce the discomfort of light, especially in the hottest seasons of the year.

Natural light

Letting in natural light in indoor environments is a good way to prevent photophobia, so that there is no discomfort in this passage of light from a dark environment to external natural light. It is like thermal shock, but in this case, with brightness.

food

Some foods collaborate with prevention, reducing photophobia. They are foods that contain beta-carotene, vitamins B6, C, E and lycopene. Some tips are:

  • Betacarotene : acerola, mango, melon, watermelon, broccoli, passion fruit, guava;
  • Vitamin B6 : liver steak, banana, cooked salmon, cooked chicken, potatoes; plum, shrimp;
  • Vitamin C : raw pepper, orange juice, strawberry, kiwi, tomato, broccoli, mango;
  • Lycopene : tomato, asparagus, red pepper, watermelon, papaya, red cabbage, carrot.

Photophobia is a common symptom and caused by various pathologies and some people are more sensitive to this condition. In some cases there is no cure, but it can be stabilized by wearing sunglasses and treating the underlying cause.

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