EYE CONDITIONS & SYMPTOMS | 3MIN
Photosensitive people are sensitive to sunlight, streetlights and other artificial light sources, as well as reflective surfaces. There are many reasons for this: each eye is unique and reacts differently to light. Refined lenses protect the eyes from disturbing reflections. There are also lenses with special filters and integrated protection against harmful light. They can be adapted to the special needs of the spectacle wearer and are available as self-tinting versions or sunglasses. Consult your optician if you suffer from photosensitivity and its consequences.
What is photosensitivity?
Light sensitivity, also called photophobia by professionals, can vary in severity. While some people find the very bright light of the sun unpleasant, for others it is rather the dim light of incandescent lamps, for example. Depending on the severity of the light sensitivity, the symptoms can be mild or severe and can lead to eye pain, for example. People with light-coloured eyes are more often affected by photophobia.
Signs and symptoms
These symptoms indicate photosensitivity:
- The need to close the eyes
- General discomfort when exposed to light
- Severe eye pain, even indoors
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
If these symptoms do not go away on their own after a short time, you should go to an ophthalmologist and have a possible photophobia checked out.
What causes photosensitivity?
There are various sources of light that can cause disturbances in sensitive people. These include:
- Reflective surfaces such as roads or windows
- Reflections on water, sand or snow
- Artificial light sources such as fluorescent tubes, LEDs or incandescent lamps
There are many reasons for this: photophobia can be caused by illnesses such as:
- Internal eye inflammation (acute iritis or uveitis)
- Meningitis (inflammation of the brain)
- Corneal abrasion
- Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva)
- Retinal detachment
Some of these conditions are serious, so a doctor should always be consulted if photophobia occurs. An eye injury or contact lens irritation can also cause photosensitivity. Likewise, a general sensitivity or age can also be the cause for the development of photophobia. This makes it all the more important to have the trigger clarified by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
How the eye works
For us to see properly, four parts of the eye need to work well together:
- The cornea and the lens at the front of the eye; they work like a camera lens and focus the light on the retina
- The retina, made up of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye; it perceives light and colour and converts them into electrical impulses
- The optic nerve behind the eye; it sends the electrical impulses to the brain
If the individual components do not work together optimally, there can be problems with the quantity and quality of the incoming light.
How is photosensitivity determined?
If you are photosensitive, you should see a doctor or optometrist. The doctor will ask questions about possible inheritance from parents, personal lifestyle, health, vision, medications and specific symptoms. This determines the type of examination, which includes a so-called ophthalmoscopy. Here, light is shone through the pupil into the inside of the eye. The examination also includes a visual acuity test with the well-known decreasing letters of the Snellen diagram.
Spectacle lenses for light sensitivity
People who are sensitive to light can protect themselves against too much light with spectacle lenses. These include:
- Specially coated and anti-reflective lenses that reduce the incidence of light and reflections from surfaces such as water, snow or sand.
- Lenses that protect against the aggressive UV rays of sunlight and the unpleasant blue-violet light of digital devices.
- Polarising lenses that effectively reduce reflections, especially in bright sunlight.
- Sunglasses with UV protection and a tint that blocks light of certain wavelengths from the eye.
Ask your optician or ophthalmologist which lenses are best for you.