What causes light sensitivity (photophobia)?

Tips for coping with light sensitivity

Some people experience light sensitivity which means they have problems with certain levels of light.

Lots of people become more sensitive to light as they get older and some people are naturally more light sensitive than others. Many common eye conditions can also make people more sensitive to light.

We’ve provided some information on light sensitivity caused by eye conditions, but the ideas may also help people without any eye conditions. 

Understanding light sensitivity

We need light to see what’s around us and its colour. Light bounces off the objects we look at and different objects reflect different amounts of light.

There are times when the amount or quality of light can affect our ability to see. Too much light can cause problems with glare.

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Our guide to light sensitivity has been written to give you a detailed understanding of light sensitivity and helpful advice on next steps

Discomfort from glare

Glare is when a light source affects our ability to see clearly. There are two types of glare.

Discomfort glare

Discomfort glare occurs naturally when a light source is too strong for your eyes. It might cause you to screw up or shade your eyes. 

Disability glare

Disability can be caused by eye conditions and with ordinary light sources and levels of light. Our eye structure is usually clear, letting light pass through smoothly. 

Conditions like cataracts can make the lens in your eye less clear meaning light passes through less smoothly. This causes the light to scatter and can make coping with bright light difficult.

Eye conditions that cause glare

Some eye conditions that can cause glare include:

If you start to become more light sensitive, have your eyes checked by an optometrist (optician). They can check whether an underlying eye condition is causing this.

If your light sensitivity comes on very suddenly it’s important to have it checked straight away in case it is a sign of a more serious underlying condition such as meningitis.

Coping with light sensitivity

If your light sensitivity is caused by an underlying eye condition, then treatment for your eye condition can mean that your eye becomes less light sensitive.

Unfortunately, not all eye conditions which cause light sensitivity can be treated. If this is the case, then you may have to use other ways to help you cope with bright light.

Your guide to living with light sensitivity

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