Light Sensitivity photophobia
Light Sensitivity (photophobia or photosensivity)
Light Sensitivity (photophobia or photosensivity) is a condition where your eyes are overly sensitive to light, possibly causing pain, tearing and discomfort. When light enters the eyes, it causes a chemical reaction in the back of the eyes. This reaction, effecting the rods and cones, allows us to adapt to differences between light and dark. The sensitivity may be the result of the rods and cones not recovering efficiently. Other causes include dry eyes and/or corneal issues.
Pain, tearing, discomfort in sunlight or even interior bright light, or glare on a hazy day.
- Those with light colored eyes and skin are more sensitive to light
- Deficiency of beta carotene and lutein.
- Thyroid condition
- Dry eye syndrome makes the cornea more sensitive to light and in severe cases can damage the cornea.
- Computer eye strain. Studies have shown that people who are on the computer a lot blink less, which can result in dry eyes.
- Some drugs and medications can cause light sensitivity. (See Drugs That Harm the Eyes for a more complete list of harmful drugs.)
- Certain antibiotics
- Anti-malarial drugs
- Blood pressure medications
- Digoxin – is used for heart failure or heart irregularity
- Photosensitizing drugs
- Wear sunglasses
- Note that it is important to first try to find out if there is an underlying cause for the light sensitivity such as a thyroid problem or diabetes. A thorough eye exam is recommended to evaluate the health of the eye.
Diet, Nutrition & Lifestype Tips
Certain nutrients such as lutein, zeaxanthin, bilberry, vinpocetine, l-lysine, a number of vitamins and enzymes, and fish oil may help with light sensitivity and help preserve vision.
- Supplement with nutrients that have been found to be helpful for light sensitivity.
- Diet & Lifestyle Protocol – see our recommendations for healthy vision for detailed information about that which can help or harm your vision and health.
- Make sure your eyes are lubricated with a preservative-free eyedrop if you have dry eyes.
- Consume dark green vegetables such as spinach and collards, which are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients vital for healthy eyes.
- Always wear sunglasses outside, especially on bright days. (Blue and green eyed people are particularly sensitive to potential sun-induced damage, so the use of eye protection is paramount). Amber and grey lenses are the most effective protection against UVA/UVA and blue light.
- Increase your driving vision- clean your headlights
- Slow down. That way, you give yourself more time to react to any unexpected hazards.
- Get prescription glasses for driving at night if needed (see your eye doctor to determine if they would be helpful).
- When driving at night, look to the right. Look at the roadway’s edge to the right to help you avoid the glare of oncoming headlights.
- Leave the driving till tomorrow. Drive only during the day. Even good lighting conditions at night, such as found in a big city, can be troublesome to someone with night blindness.
- Important diet and nutrition recommendations
- Maintain a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and grains.
- Go organic – know what you are putting into your body
- Limit refined products lessen the amount of sugar (particularly white or refined sugar), and refined carbohydrates. Try stevia as a sweetener rather than sugar. It is far more concentrated so you only need a small amount.
- Avoid aspartame (foods labeled “diet”)
- Avoid man-made fats (corn oil and safflower oil, trans fats, and hydrogenated vegetable oils including canola oil).
- Limit alcohol consumption to one glass of red wine daily. Alcohol helps reduce protective glutathione levels because it interferes with liver functioning.
- Cut down on caffeine, coffee, and soft drinks Watch your intake of soft drinks (3 tablespoons of sugar per can!) and processed foods that contain sugar.
- Avoid monosodium glutanate (MSG), which is used as a flavor enhancer, because it is a potential retinal toxin (Inv Oph 1996; 37: 1618-24)
- Avoid fat blockers like Olestra which impair the absorption of carotenoids (Argus, August 1996;19:18:July 1996;19:22).
- Slow down on the fast foods and fried foods.
- Read the labels when you buy processed foods – avoid artificial sweeteners, flavorings and colorings. Avoid hydrogenated and transfatty acid containing foods which disrupt the digestive process.
- Avoid hydrogenated oils or transfatty acids like those found in margarine, as well as saturated fats
- Important lifestyle recommendations:
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection whenever outside in the sun. The best lens color is amber, which neutralizes blue light. Brown is the next best color. Note: Cheaper glasses may have a coating to block out UV light that can rub off overtime. Many people think it is the tint that helps protect one’s eyes, but it is actually the UV filter on, or in, the lens. So, if the filtering coating wears off, a dark lens actually increases pupil dilation, allowing more light to enter the eyes.
- Eliminate smoking. Smoking produces cyanide, a retinal toxin.
- Limit the amount of medications Talk to your doctor or get a second opinion to make sure that you are not taking more (both prescription and non-prescription) medications than you really need and that your medications do not conflict.
- Exercise every day. Get at 20 minutes of aerobic exercise daily by walking, swimming, or other sports or activities that you enjoy.
- Avoid microwaves. Leakage from microwave ovens are a direct cause of cataracts, so avoid peeking into the oven door window while you cook. In addition, food proteins exposed to microwaves can become toxic to the lens, which is made up mostly of proteins.
- Manage your mental health. Emotional well-being is very important to good physical health. Fear, anger, stress, etc, are important factors in many diseases. You can help balance your emotions through meditation, prayer, exercise, martial arts, etc.
A 2012 U. California study found that 12 minutes of yoga daily brought about measurable changes in 68 genes, resulting not only in reduced stress, but reduced inflammation – an issue in diabetic retinopathy, optic neuritis, macular edema, heart disease, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.