Understanding Photophobia

Vitamin HealthLutein

Many people have heard the term photophobia as it pertains to the side effects of prescription medication, but the general public does not understand it as well as the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic light sensitivity known as photophobia. We have all suffered some form of light sensitivity at one time or another. This is what causes us to squint and put on sunglasses, or draw the curtains in the mornings. However, photophobia refers to an extreme sensitivity to light, and is often a symptom of dozens of other conditions. Join us as we discover what photophobia is and potential treatments to help reduce discomfort.

Photophobia is an extreme form of light sensitivity and can manifest with symptoms that include eyestrain and squinting, eye pain, the onset of headache or migraine, light intolerance, eye inflammation, excessive blinking, watery or dry eyes, and vertigo or dizziness.

Causes of Photophobia

While it only seems logical that photophobia would be a symptom of sensory input in the eye, photophobia is actually a neurological issue that results from poor communication between the eye and the brain. The part of the eye that transmits photophobia to the brain is different from the part that transmits vision. Case in point, a person can be completely blind and still be sensitive to light. What conditions cause this disruption of eye-brain communication?

  • Nearly 90% of migraine sufferers report photophobia
  • More than 70% of cluster headaches include photophobia
  • 70% of those with chronic dry eye also complain of photophobia
  • Upwards of 60% of vestibular migraines cause photophobia
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) causes photophobia in nearly half of suffers, and light sensitivity in the other half
  • Photophobia is a common concern in sensory-challenged persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 
  • Two-thirds of those diagnosed with Fibromyalgia suffer light sensitivity issues
  • ADD/ADHD has been linked to photophobia, but which causes which has yet to be determined

Other conditions that may cause photophobia include albinism, blepharospasm, depression, Meningitis, Lyme disease, glaucoma, Sjogren’s syndrome, and corneal and retinal diseases. Other factors that contribute to light sensitivity and photophobia include eye color — those with lighter colored eyes are at a disproportionately higher risk — previous medications, and eye injury. 

What Can Be Done?

As many who suffer from photophobia or light sensitivity will explain, the only sure “cure” is avoiding light — wearing sunglasses, using blackout curtains, avoiding screens and sunshine. If you, like many, find these self-care tips difficult to manage and a devastating way to live your life, you can find other ways to manage the symptoms. Finding the root cause and treating it is one of the best ways to reduce or eliminate photophobia. 

For many of the conditions listed above, the compounds lutein and zeaxanthin have the potential to help. These antioxidants help filter blue light, preventing it from reaching the macula. This action helps reduce eye strain and improve eye strength. For many, this can dramatically reduce headaches and migraines. For others, a daily dose of lutein can help reduce symptoms to a dull roar. 

At Viteyes®, we offer a variety of eye vitamins and supplements to support optimal eye health and reduce the risk of some of the conditions we have mentioned here. Lutein is known to protect the macula by reducing the amount of harmful light that makes it to the structure. By supporting eye health you can reduce eye strain, strengthen the eye structures, and have a fighting chance against photophobia symptoms. Visit us online to learn more about lutein and eye vitamins and browse our entire supplement inventory.