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Are Your Eyes Sensitive to Light?

Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, is a condition in which bright light - either natural sunlight or artificial light -  can cause significant discomfort, pain and intolerance. People that experience light sensitivity will find themselves needing to close their eyes or squint when exposed to light and often experience headaches and nausea as well.  In mild cases, the discomfort accompanies exposure to bright lights or harsh sunlight, but in severe cases even a small amount of light can cause pain and discomfort.  

Photophobia is more common in individuals with light eyes. This is because the greater amounts of pigment in darker eyes help to protect the eye from the harsh rays of light. The darker pigment of the iris and choroid absorbs the light, rather than reflecting the light and causing internal reflection or glare experienced by those with lighter eyes. People with albinism, which is a total lack of eye pigment, also experience significant light sensitivity for this reason. 

Acute photophobia is usually a symptom that accompanies a condition such as an eye infection or irritation (such as conjunctivitis or dry eyes), a virus, or a migraine (light sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms of migraines). It could also be caused by something more serious such as an eye condition like a corneal abrasion, a detached retina, uveitis or iritis or a systemic disease like meningitis or encephalitis. Light sensitivity is also a side effect of refractive surgery (such as LASIK) or after cataract surgery and some medications (such as tetracycline and doxycycline).  

How to Deal with Photophobia

The most effective way to reduce the discomfort caused by photophobia is to stay out of sunlight and dim indoor lights as much as possible while you are experiencing symptoms. Wearing dark sunglasses and keeping your eyes closed may also provide some relief. 

In the summer it is more common for UV to trigger corneal inflammation (keratitis) and cause photosensitivity as well. Wind and eye dryness can also set off photosensitivity, which are more good reasons to wear sunglasses. 

If the sensitivity is new and the cause is unknown, you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if you experience any of the following symptoms:  

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning or pain in the eye
  • Fever and chills
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Foreign body sensation

In cases where the photophobia is a symptom of an underlying issue, treating the issue will likely cause relief in your sensitivity. This will vary depending on the ailment but could include pain medications, eye drops or antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medications. If the sensitivity is mild due to your genetic predisposition or a result of surgery, make sure you take your sunglasses every time you leave the house. People who wear prescription eyeglasses may consider photochromic lenses which automatically darken when exposed to light. 

If you are uncomfortable, speak to your eye doctor about the best options for your condition.  

Armstrong & Small Eyecare Centre - COVID-19 Update - March 18, 2020

Due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, we have made the difficult decision to close starting Wednesday, March 18 and we are hoping (depending on the conditions) that we will re-open on Monday, April 6th.

In our attempts to be as socially distant as possible and to protect you, our staff and all of our families, we recommend staying at home and following all of the precautions that have been set out by the city, province and the nation.

If you have specific questions about glasses, contact lenses or any other non-emergency / non-essential items please email us at info@armstrongandsmall.com and we will do our best to accommodate your request. As part of our services, we are happy to provide you the option of having your contact lenses sent directly to your home. If you currently have items on order, we will be in touch with you to make arrangements.

If you are calling about a specific ocular or visual emergency such as new flashes and/or floaters, a loss in vision or a suspected eye infection, please text or call Dr. Luke Small at 204-299-6587 or Dr. Matt Lepage at 204-573-8039 who are both providing on-call emergency services through our clinic. Please do this prior to going to Misericordia or to a walk-in clinic as we attempt to reduce their patient load at this time. Obviously, if you have been recently traveling or are experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19, they will be able to direct you where to go for the proper care.

Please stay home as much as possible and stay safe.

Thank you from your Armstrong & Small Eyecare Team.