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Photophobia is a symptom of abnormal intolerance to visual perception of light.[1] As a medical symptom, photophobia is not a morbid fear or phobia, but an experience of discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light exposure or by presence of actual physical sensitivity of the eyes,[2] though the term is sometimes additionally applied to abnormal or irrational fear of light such as heliophobia.[3] The term photophobia comes from the Greek φῶς (phōs), meaning "light", and φόβος (phóbos), meaning "fear". Photophobia is a common symptom of visual snow.[4][5]

Specialty Neurology



Patients may develop photophobia as a result of several different medical conditions, related to the eye or the nervous system. Photophobia can be caused by an increased response to light starting at any step in the visual system, such as:

  • Too much light entering the eye. Too much light can enter the eye if it is damaged, such as with corneal abrasion and retinal damage, or if its pupil(s) is unable to normally constrict (seen with damage to the oculomotor nerve).
  • Due to albinism, the lack of pigment in the colored part of the eyes (irises) makes them somewhat translucent. This means that the irises can't completely block light from entering the eye.
  • Overstimulation of the photoreceptors in the retina
  • Excessive electric impulses to the optic nerve
  • Excessive response in the central nervous system
  • Elevated trigeminal nerve tone (as it is sensory nerve to eye, elevated tone makes it over reactive). Elevated trigeminal tone causes elevated substance P which causes hypersensitivity. Often due to jaw misalignment.[6]

Common causes of photophobia include migraine headaches, TMJ, cataracts, Sjogren's Syndrome, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), or severe ophthalmologic diseases such as uveitis or corneal abrasion.[7] A more extensive list follows:


Causes of photophobia relating directly to the eye itself include:


Neurological causes for photophobia include:

Other causesEdit


The best treatment for light sensitivity is to address the underlying cause. Once the triggering factor is treated, photophobia disappears in many but not all cases.[34]

People with photophobia will avert their eyes from direct light, such as sunlight and room lights. They may seek the shelter of a dark room. They may wear sunglasses designed to filter peripheral light and wide-brimmed sun hats.

Wearing sunglasses indoors can make symptoms worse over time as it will dark-adapt the retina which aggravates sensitivity to light. Indoor photophobia symptoms may be relieved with the use of precision tinted lenses which block the green-to-blue end of the light spectrum without blurring or impeding vision.[35][36]

A paper by Stringham and Hammond, published in the Journal of Food Science, reviews studies of effects of consuming Lutein and Zeaxanthin on visual performance, and notes a decrease in sensitivity to glare.[37]


Photophobia may also affect patients' socioeconomic status by limiting their career choices, since many workplaces require bright lights for safety or to accommodate the work being done. Sufferers may be shut out of a wide range of both skilled and unskilled jobs, such as in warehouses, offices, workshops, classrooms, supermarkets and storage spaces.[38] Some photophobes are only able to work night shifts, which reduces their prospects for finding work.[39]

See alsoEdit


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    • Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008
    • Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. 2009
    • McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. 2002
  3. ^ citing:
    • The American Heritage Medical Dictionary Copyright 2007
    • Millodot: Dictionary of Optometry and Visual Science, 7th edition. 2009
  4. ^ φῶς, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  5. ^ φόβος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  6. ^ J Pain Res. 2014; 7: 99–115. Published online 2014 Feb 21.Orofacial pain management: current perspectives; Marcela Romero-Reyes and James M Uyanik
  7. ^ Hazin R, Abuzetun JY, Daoud YJ, Abu-Khalaf MM (July 2009). "Ocular complications of cancer therapy: a primer for the ophthalmologist treating cancer patients". Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 20 (4): 308–17. doi:10.1097/ICU.0b013e32832c9007. PMID 19491683. 
  8. ^ "Achromotopsoa". Scottish Sensory Centre. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Day, Susan (January 15, 1997). "P9: Photophobia". In Taylor, David. Paediatric Ophthalmology (2nd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 1034–6. ISBN 978-0-86542-831-7. 
  10. ^ a b "Photophobia". Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Archived from the original on September 29, 2009. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Conjunctivitis". Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  12. ^ "Corneal ulcer". Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  13. ^ Fraunfelder, F. T.; Fraunfelder, F. W.; Edwards, R. (2001-09-01). "Ocular side effects possibly associated with isotretinoin usage". American Journal of Ophthalmology. 132 (3): 299–305. doi:10.1016/s0002-9394(01)01024-8. ISSN 0002-9394. PMID 11530040. 
  14. ^ Fan X, Miles JH, Takahashi N, Yao G (November 2009). "Abnormal transient pupillary light reflex in individuals with autism spectrum disorders". J Autism Dev Disord. 39 (11): 1499–508. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0767-7. PMID 19499319. 
  15. ^ "Light sensitivity — photophobia". Royal National Institute of Blind People. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  16. ^ "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome". University of Virginia Health System. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  17. ^ J Pain Res. 2014; 7: 99–115. Published online 2014 Feb 21.Orofacial pain management: current perspectives;Marcela Romero-Reyes and James M Uyanik
  18. ^ "Photophobia — Glossary Entry". Genetics Home Reference. United States National Library of Medicine. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Ankylosing spondylitis". United States National Library of Medicine. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Albinism". MedicinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. United States National Library of Medicine. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  21. ^ Harris, Robert S.; Kenneth V. Thimann (February 11, 1943). Vitamins & Hormones, Volume 1. Academic Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-12-709801-2. 
  22. ^ Wakakura M, Tsubouchi T, Inouye J (March 2004). "Etizolam and benzodiazepine induced blepharospasm". J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiatry. 75 (3): 506–7. doi:10.1136/jnnp.2003.019869. PMC 1738986 . PMID 14966178. 
  23. ^ Pelissolo A; Bisserbe JC (Mar–Apr 1994). "[Dependence on benzodiazepines. Clinical and biological aspects]". Encephale. 20 (2): 147–57. PMID 7914165. 
  24. ^ Mahesh, G; Giridhar, A; Shedbele, A; Kumar, R; Saikumar, SJ (2009). "A case of bilateral presumed chikungunya neuroretinitis". Indian journal of ophthalmology. Indian Journal of Ophthalmology. 57 (2): 148–50. doi:10.4103/0301-4738.45508. PMC 2684432 . PMID 19237792. 
  25. ^ Dr. Diana Driscoll, Ehlers-Danlos Eye Dr PDF
  26. ^ A.D.A.M
  27. ^ Gauthier-Smith, P.C. (December 22, 2004). "Neurological complications of glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis)". Brain. Oxford University Press. 88 (2): 323–334. doi:10.1093/brain/88.2.323. PMID 5828906. 
  28. ^ Hunt, Dr. Margaret. "Influenza Virus (Orthomyxovirus)". University of South Carolina School of Medicine. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  29. ^ Durlach, Jean; Hirotoshi Morii; Yoshiki Nishizawa (March 6, 2007). "10: Clinical forms of Magnesium Depletion by Photosensitization and Treatment with Scototherapy". New Perspectives in Magnesium Research. Springer London. pp. 117–126. doi:10.1007/978-1-84628-483-0_10. ISBN 978-1-84628-388-8. 
  30. ^ "Elemental mercury poisoning in a household—Ohio, 1989". MMWR Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 39 (25): 424–5. June 1990. PMID 2113168. 
  31. ^ Drummond PD (October 1986). "A quantitative assessment of photophobia in migraine and tension headache". Headache. 26 (9): 465–9. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4610.1986.hed2609465.x. PMID 3781834. 
  32. ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (28 October 1994). "Human Rabies — Miami, 1994". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 43 (42): 773–5. PMID 7935313. 
  33. ^ SCDS Society
  34. ^ Bailey, Gretchyn. "Photophobia (Light Sensitivity)". Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  35. ^ Blackburn Marcus K.; et al. (2009). "FL-41 tint improves blink frequency, light sensitivity, and functional limitations in patients with benign essential blepharospasm". Ophthalmology. 116 (5): 997–1001. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2008.12.031. PMC 2701948 . 
  36. ^ Katz, Bradley J., and Kathleen B. Digre. "Diagnosis, pathophysiology, and treatment of photophobia." Survey of ophthalmology (2016).
  37. ^ Stringham JM, Bovier ER, Wong JC, Hammond BR (2010). "The influence of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin on visual performance". J. Food Sci. 75 (1): R24–9. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01447.x. PMID 20492192. 
  38. ^ Practitioner - Volume 232. 1988. p. 219. 
  39. ^ "The West Indian Medical Journal, Volume 11". University of the West Indies: 6. 1962. 

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