Photophobia is simply defined as experiencing eye discomfort or pain when exposed to natural or artificial bright light. Mild cases of photophobia can cause you to squint when you move from a dull light environment into a bright environment, while severe photophobia can make it impossible for you to be in any brightly lit environment without experiencing significant eye pain. Photophobia can be caused by several underlying health issues, and while some of these are relatively harmless, others need prompt medical attention. Here's an overview of the causes of photophobia and the associated treatment options:
Neurological Causes Of Photophobia
Photophobia can occur as the result of a few neurological conditions, and the management of these conditions should be overseen by a neurologist. Encephalitis is a viral infection that causes brain inflammation, and if you are found to have this condition, you will require anti-inflammatory drugs and will likely be cared for on an inpatient basis until the inflammation is under control, as brain inflammation can cause you to have a stroke. Bacterial meningitis can cause you to experience light sensitivity due to membranes around the spinal cord and brain becoming inflamed. This is considered a medical emergency and will require intensive antibiotic therapy. Another potential neurological cause is subarachnoid haemorrhage, which causes blood to build up in your brain. This condition can only be treated by surgically draining the excess blood to take pressure off your brain.
Eye Health Causes Of Photophobia
Photophobia can be caused by corneal abrasion, which is a common eye injury that can occur when an irritant, such as sand or grit, scratches the surface of the cornea. Corneal abrasion tends to heal on its own within a few weeks, but topical antibiotics may be required if the abrasion becomes infected. Inflammation of the white of your eye, known as scleritis, can also cause light sensitivity. This eye condition is generally only found in those with a compromised immune system, and it can be treated with topical anti-inflammatory drugs. Bacterial conjunctivitis causes the tissue at the front of the eye to become inflamed and requires antibiotics to tackle the infection and corticosteroid drops to reduce the swelling.
If you're experiencing photophobia, whether on a consistent or intermittent basis, the first step is to schedule an eye test with your optometrist. A standard eye test can diagnose a number of eye conditions that may not yet be causing you to experience any other noticeable symptoms, and if your optometrist is concerned the cause of your photophobia is neurological, they will refer you to a specialist.