Sensitivity to light is the inability to tolerate light, medically known as photophobia. In someone who is light sensitive, any type of light source (sunlight, fluorescent light, incandescent light) can cause discomfort. Photophobia typically causes a need to squint or close the eyes, and headache, nausea, or other symptoms may be associated with photophobia. Symptoms may be worse with bright light. People with light-colored eyes are more likely to have sensitivity to bright light than those with darker-pigmented eyes. Light sensitivity is caused by a number of conditions that affect the eye (such as iritis, uveitis, and keratitis), as well as conditions that affect the entire body. Migraine headache is a common cause of photophobia, with a majority of migraine sufferers reporting sensitivity to light.
Other causes of photophobia
- Bacterial Infection
- Corneal Abrasion
- Dilated Pupils
- Eye Surgery
- Foreign Body in the Eye
- Sensitivity to Light
- Trauma to the Eyes
- Viral Infection
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Common Eye Problems and Infections
Eye diseases can cause damage and blindness if not detected and treated soon enough. Learn the warning signs and symptoms of...
Eye Problems & Conditions Quiz
What do you know about your eyes? Take this quick quiz to learn about a range of eye diseases and conditions.
Picture of Blepharitis
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids and occurs in two forms, anterior (outside of the eyelid) and posterior (inner...
Picture of Uveitis
Uveitis (pronounced you-vee-EYE-tis) involves all inflammatory processes of the middle layers of the eye, also called the uveal...
Causes of Photophobia
Acanthamoeba is an amoeba that lives in dust, soil, and fresh, sea, and brackish water. Acanthamoeba keratitis causes eye pain, a sensation of something in the eye, and blurry vision. Acanthamoeba causes granulomatous encephalitis, leading to seizures, hallucinations, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting. Diseeminated infection may also result from Acanthamoeba infection.
Acanthamoeba infection of the eye can cause Acanthamoeba keratitis, a serious infection that may result in permanent vision loss or blindness. Signs and symptoms include a sensation of something in the eye, pain, redness, light sensitivity, and tearing. Prescription medications treat this infection.
Balamuthia mandrillarisis is an ameba that lives in dust and soil. Signs and symptoms of Balamuthia include fever, nausea and vomiting, light sensitivity, headache, stiff neck, and headaches. There are various diagnostic tests and medications that treat Balamuthia infection.
Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids. Acne rosacea, staphylococcal bacteria, allergies, sensitivities to makeup or contact lens solutions, head lice, or other conditions may cause blepharitis. Symptoms and signs include itchy eyelids, burning sensation in the eyes, crusting of the eyelids, light sensitivity, red, swollen eyelids, loss of eyelashes, and dandruff of the lashes and eyebrows. Proper eyelid hygiene and a regular cleaning routine controls blepharitis.
Burns (First Aid)
Burn types are based on their severity: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns. First-degree burns are similar to a painful sunburn. The damage is more severe with second-degree burns, leading to blistering and more intense pain. The skin turns white and loses sensation with third-degree burns. Burn treatment depends upon the burn location, total burn area, and intensity of the burn.
Concussion is a short-lived loss of brain function that is due to head trauma. There are two types of concussion, simple and complex. Symptoms of concussion include headache, nausea, dizziness, dazed feeling, irritability, visual symptoms. Physical signs include poor concentration, emotional changes, slurred speech, and personality changes. Concussion is diagnosed with physical examination and testing. Treatment for concussion in general are treatment for control of the symptoms, and time.
The cornea is the clear outer layer of the eye. If it is damaged by disease, infection, or injury, vision problems may occur. Corneal problems can be detected by having an eye exam. Corneal problems can be prevented by protecting the eyes from injury and avoiding contact with people who have eye infections.
A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea. Infection is a common cause of corneal ulcer. Symptoms and signs of corneal ulcer include redness, eye pain and discharge, blurred vision, photophobia, and a gray or white spot on the cornea. Treatment depends upon the cause of the corneal ulcer.
Drug addiction is a chronic disease that causes drug-seeking behavior and drug use despite negative consequences to the user and those around him. Though the initial decision to use drugs is voluntary, changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse can affect a person's self-control and ability to make the right decisions and increase the urge to take drugs. Drug abuse and addiction are preventable.
Dry eyes are caused by an imbalance in the tear-flow system of the eye, but also can be caused by the drying out of the tear film. This can be due to dry air created by air conditioning, heat, or other environmental conditions. Treatment may involve self-care measures, medications, or rarely, surgery.
Encephalitis is a brain inflammation that causes sudden fever, vomiting, headache, light sensitivity, stiff neck and back, drowsiness, and irritability. Treatment may incorporate anticonvulsants and antiviral medications.
Enterovirus (Non-Polio Enterovirus Infection)
Non-polio enteroviruses cause a variety of infections, including aseptic meningitis, hand, foot, and mouth disease, herpangina, and the common cold. Symptoms and signs of enterovirus infection include hypoxia, eye pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fever. Treatment of non-polio enterovirus infection involves supportive care that reduces the symptoms and signs, as there are no antiviral medications approved for treatment.
Eye strain is a symptom caused by looking at something for a long time. Symptoms and signs include redness, light sensitivity, headaches, and blurred vision. Symptoms may be treated by closing the eyes and taking a break from the visual task.
Fungal meningitis is a rare disease that is not contagious. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment involves administering high doses of antifungal medications.
Glaucoma is a common eye condition in which the fluid pressure inside the eye rises because of slowed fluid drainage from the eye. If untreated, glaucoma may damage the optic nerve and other parts of the eye, causing the loss of vision or even blindness.
Head Injury (Brain Injury)
In the United States, head injuries are one of the most common causes of death and disability. Head injuries due to bleeding are generally classified by the location of the blood within the skull, these include: epidural hematoma, subdural hematoma, subarachnoid bleed, intracranial bleed, sheer injury, edema, and skull fracture. Some common symptoms of a head injury include: vomiting, bleeding from the ear, speech difficulties, paralysis, difficulty swallowing, and body numbness. Treatment of a head injury depends on the type and severity of the injury.
Herpes Viral Infections of the Eye
Herpes of the eye occurs due to herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1). Symptoms of herpes of the eye include pain in and around the eye, rash or sores on the eyelids, redness, swelling, and cloudiness of the cornea.
Iritis is inflammation of the iris, the colored portion of the eye. Symptoms include a red, painful eye, blurry vision, and light sensitivity. Treatment usually involves cortisone eyedrops.
Is Meningitis Contagious?
Meningitis, inflammation of the meninges, symptoms and signs include neck stiffness, headache, and fever. There are five types of meningitis: viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and noninfectious.
Is Pinkeye Contagious?
Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is inflammation of the conjunctiva. Whether pinkeye is contagious depends upon what is causing the irritation. With pinkeye, people may experience swollen eyelids, a pinkish color in the whites of the eyes, eye discharge, photophobia, increased tear production, and itching.
Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea. Symptoms and signs include pain, tearing, blurred vision, eye redness, watery eyes, or the cornea may appear gray or white. Treatment of keratitis depends upon the underlying cause of the inflammation.
Migraine headache is a type of headache associated with a sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds, eye pain, severe pounding on one side of the head, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. The exact cause of migraine headaches is not known. Triggers for migraine headaches include certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, strong stimuli (loud noises), and oversleeping. Treatment guidelines for migraines include medicine, pain management, diet changes, avoiding foods that trigger migraines, staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep, and exercising regularly. Prevention of migraine triggers include getting regular exercise, drinking water daily, reducing stress, and avoiding trigger foods.
Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve, the structure that connects the eye to the brain. The precise cause of optic neuritis is unknown, but it is thought to be a type of autoimmune disorder. Optic neuritis most commonly develops due to an autoimmune disorder that may be triggered by a viral infection.
Pinkeye, also called conjunctivitis, is redness or irritation of the conjunctivae, the membranes on the inner part of the eyelids and the membranes covering the whites of the eyes. These membranes react to a wide range of bacteria, viruses, allergy-provoking agents, irritants, and toxic agents.
Prolactinoma (Pituitary Tumor)
Prolactinoma is an adenoma (benign tumor) of the pituitary gland. Causes of many prolactinomas are unknown. Symptoms in women include: changes in menstruation and infertility, decreased libido, or painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness. The most common symptom in men is impotence (erectile dysfunction). Treatments for prolactinomas include medication and surgery.
Reactive arthritis is a chronic, systemic rheumatic disease characterized by three conditions, including conjunctivitis, joint inflammation, and genital, urinary, or gastrointestinal system inflammation. Inflammation leads to pain, swelling, warmth, redness, and stiffness of the affected joints. Non-joint areas may experience irritation and pain. Treatment for reactive arthritis depends on which area of the body is affected. Joint inflammation is treated with anti-inflammatory medications.
Retinal detachment is the separation of the retina from its attachments to the underlying eye tissue. Symptoms of retinal detachment include flashing lights and floaters. Highly nearsighted young adults and those who've had cataract surgery are at higher risk for retinal detachment.
Scleritis is inflammation of the white part of the eye. It may be caused by a serious underlying condition, such as an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include redness, pain, tearing, sensitivity to light, and decreased visual acuity. Treatment may include eye drops as well as treatment for any underlying disease process. Scleritis cannot be prevented.
Tension Headache (Symptoms, Relief, Causes, Treatment)
A tension headache s one of the most common types of headaches, and the exact cause is not known. Factors that may contribute to tension or stress headaches are lack of sleep, increased stress (referred to as a stress headache), skipping meals, dehydration, medical diseases or conditions, anxiety, or changes at home, work, or school. Treatment of tension headaches include prescription and OTC medications, stress management, and treating any underlying illness or condition.
Uveitis is inflammation of the eye. Symptoms include blurred vision, eye pain, eye redness, photophobia, and floaters. Treatment may involve prescription eyedrops, antibiotics, and wearing dark glasses.
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