What Is Photophobia and What Causes This Condition

January 14th, 2008 by | Category: Diseases and Conditions

Most people are sensitive to sunlight and will usually use sunglasses to protect their eyes. But when you are unable to bear bright light and literally suffer from intense pain and migraines then you are likely to have photophobia. This is not caused by any kind of underlying disease but can be linked to some problems of the eye, which can be aggravated even in low or soft light.
Photophobia has several symptoms other than just sensitivity to light. Intolerance to light can also be due to an inflammation of the eyes, when tears may or may not be present. Sometimes the excessive use of alcohol may lead to the atrophy of the optic nerve and irritation of the brain and nerves. Great intolerance to light may be accompanied by a swelling of the eyes, redness, and discharge. Photophobia can also cause violent shooting pains in the head and temples. Headaches, nausea, and dizziness are symptoms to watch out for. If your neck is stiff or you experience a numbness or tingling sensation elsewhere in the body then you should seek help.
Photophobia can be caused by any disease or injury to the eyes such as burns. Infection or inflammation of the eyes can lead to photophobia. Sometimes during an eye examination when the pupils have been dilated the result could be sensitivity to light. The use of contact lenses over an extended period of time or ill-fitting lenses could cause such problems. Conditions such as iritis, corneal diseases and uveitis can cause photophobia–as can migraines.

Some remedies that people resort to are wearing sunglasses, closing the blinds and staying in dark rooms, and generally avoiding sunlight. But if the condition persists even in indoor lighting that is at a low level, and if the pain is severe then you must consult a doctor and pursue medical treatment. The doctor may suggest biomicroscopy, which will examine the iris, the lens and the eyelids and cornea; corneal scraping; or a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap.

Researchers at universities and medical centers are working on ways to figure out photophobia as sometimes it is seen as being more a psychological disorder than a physical one. Some physicians insist that it is a neurological problem and not a psychological one and should be treated seriously. It has been observed, however, that people suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, agoraphobia, and migraines are more vulnerable to photophobia. The intensity of the disorder will vary among people and also according to season. Obviously, the problem will be less apparent in the winter months. Doctors also advocate wearing rose-tinted glasses rather than dark glasses as the latter could actually exacerbate the problem. Doctors are confident that once they are able to establish the neural pathway that generates the sensitivity to light and how the brain is thus wired they will be better able to treat photophobia.





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