Strolling on the street with sunglasses on is usually a fashion statement for many people. Sunglasses are a perfect fit for almost any outfit and they hide they mystery behind a person’s eyes. However, there are instances when people don’t wear sunglasses because they want to look fashionable but because they cannot walk around with the eyes bare to the overwhelming light. It doesn’t have to be sunlight. It could be light from light bulbs, chandeliers and any other source of light.
Definition of Photophobia
Photophobia is the intolerance of a person’s eyes to light which causes them discomfort. At times, you can find a person with Photophobia tearing up when they are exposed to light from the sun or fluorescent lights. Photophobia can also be referred to as light sensitivity. There are different levels of Photophobia. One person may only be sensitive to bright light while for another, any form of light is discomforting.
Causes of Photophobia
There are many types of phobia and contrary to what people may think, Photophobia is not a type of eye disease. As a matter of fact, it is a symptom of many eye conditions like infection or inflammation which cause irritation to the eyes. Since this intolerance is not a disease, it can be caused by other diseases. For example, most eye infections that cause inflammation of the eye cause light sensitivity. Due to the infection, the eyes become irritable to light.
Intolerance of a person’s eyes to light can also be caused by diseases that are not related to the eye. For example, a viral disease can cause light sensitivity. Headaches and migraines are other causes of this phobia. Light sensitivity is also caused by central nervous disorders like meningitis and other conditions like corneal abrasion and uveitis.
Then there are people with this intolerance because of the characteristic features of their eyes. For instance, people with lighter eye color experience some sought of sensitivity, especially to bright light. This is because they have less pigment to protect them against harsh lighting unlike people with darker-colored eyes.
People with albinism are also more likely to suffer from this phobia. Albinos lack eye pigment making them susceptible to irritation from light. People with total color deficiency who only see shades of gray and those with botulism, rabies or mercury poisoning can also develop Photophobia.
Lastly, a certain rare disease makes people more prone to develop light sensitivity. Some of these diseases are like genetic disorder KFSD. The side effects of medications like belladonna, quinine, doxycycline, tetracycline, and furosemide also cause Photophobia.
Can Photophobia cause anxiety?
Photophobia and anxiety are intertwined. On one side, Photophobia can cause anxiety and stress especially when someone has another condition like a migraine. On the other hand, intense anxiety can lead to Photosensitivity. The exact link between these two conditions is yet to be established.
What is Photophobia a symptom of?
Photophobia is not a disease in itself but a symptom of various disease as mentioned earlier. One, Photophobia can be a symptom of an eye infection which then causes eye irritation. Therefore, intolerance to light would only indicate that there is an underlying condition of the eye that is resulting in the eyes being sensitive to light.
Photophobia can also be a symptom of other diseases that do not affect the eyes directly. Some of these diseases are caused by viruses. It can also be a result of severe headaches or migraines.
Does Photophobia go away?
Photophobia is only a symptom of underlying diseases whether they are related to the eye or not. In most cases, treating this underlying illness will cause this phobia to go away. Once the trigger has been dealt with, the light sensitivity disappears.
Can Photosensitivity be cured? Is there a cure for Photophobia?
While it is true that this intolerance can go away once an underlying condition is treated, light sensitivity is not curable in all circumstances. For example, people with albinism are naturally sensitive to light because they lack eye pigmentation. They can do nothing about curing the condition but they can take steps to alleviate the sensitivity.
Photosensitivity can be cured for people with curable diseases but there is no cure for issues like eye color that lead to photosensitivity.
How do you treat Photophobia naturally?
- Gradually increasing exposure to light. Hiding away in darkness only worsens the problem
- Using LED light bulbs instead of fluorescent lighting which can worsen Photophobia
- Wearing polarized sunglasses when you are outside to minimize the glare, reflection, and sunlight
- Keeping up to date with your prescription glasses if you have them since eye strain can cause Photophobia
- Cleaning your contact lenses because inflammation from dirty can lead to redness and itchiness of the eye which leads to Photophobia
- Take a break from screens including your computer or mobile device. Staring at screens for long periods leads to eye strain and headaches which lead to this phobia
- Clean your house regularly to avoid dust particles and bacteria from getting into your eyes
- Since it is caused by diseases that can be psychological like migraines and depression, it is good that you find ways to de-stress. Stress can trigger light sensitivity
How can I overcome Photophobia?
In order to overcome this phobia, you must first determine what its cause is in the first place. If it is an underlying eye condition, then you need to get it treated. If it is the side effects of some medications you are taking then you should talk to your doctor about discontinuing or replacing the drug.
In case you are one of those patients who is naturally sensitive to light because of albinism or eye color that you cannot do anything about, then you should avoid bright sunlight and harsh lighting sources. This will keep your eyes from further irritation.
Some of the diseases that cause intolerance of a person’s eyes to light can be avoided by maintaining good hygienic practices. For example, you can avoid meningitis by washing your hands frequently or prevent conjunctivitis by not touching your eyes all the time and not sharing eye makeup.
Photophobia can make a person’s life miserable. If you discover your eyes are sensitive to light, you should get checked out by a doctor immediately. You can also take measures to prevent or alleviate Photophobia in cases where it cannot be cured.