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Why Are My Eyes So Sensitive to Light?

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A man outside wearing a hoodie with the hood up, rubbing his eye's because his eyes are sensitive to light

Light Sensitivity

Your eyes are made for light. Light is an essential part of how vision operates. So how can our eyes become sensitive to light?

Light sensitivity or photophobia can result from a minor eye condition or an eye emergency. However, if you experience sudden or increased light sensitivity, it can indicate a severe eye condition or injury.

If the sensitivity slowly develops over time, it can be challenging to understand the exact cause. Seeing your optometrist for regular eye exams can help you understand your eye health better and diagnose the cause of your light aversion.

Typical symptoms of light sensitivity include:

  • Squinting
  • Frequent blinking
  • Avoiding going outside
  • Avoiding brightly lit areas
  • Discomfort or pain caused by light

If you’re curious about why your eyes are so sensitive to light, read more about potential causes.

What Causes Light Sensitivity?

Potential causes of photophobia include:

Your eyes are unique, and sometimes your eyes react differently to eye conditions or environmental stimuli. In addition, assessing your overall health can help you understand the cause of your photophobia. 

If you’re unsure if you have any common causes, talk to your eye doctor to learn more about your ocular health. Your optometrist can recommend management options for light sensitivity or advise you about other potential causes.

Digital Eye Strain

Digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome is caused by the extended use of digital screens, like computers, tablets, phones, and other devices. When our visual system is overstimulated or tired, it can increase our light sensitivity. Other common symptoms of digital eye strain include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Headache
  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Sleep issues
  • Sore or tired eyes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Discomfort keeping eyes open
  • Neck, shoulder, or back pain

If your light sensitivity results from digital eye strain, there are options for managing symptoms. After booking an eye exam with your optometrist, they can recommend the best treatment methods for your eye health and lifestyle. Some possibilities include corrective eyewear, the 20-20-20 rule, eye drops, or environmental changes.

A woman laying down, prepared for laser eye surgery

Laser Eye Surgery

One of the most common side effects of laser eye surgery is dry eye. One symptom of dry eyes is light sensitivity, and patients may often have increased light sensitivity during recovery. However, most patients experience a significant decrease in symptoms within weeks or months after surgery. 

Unfortunately, some patients continue to have dry eyes and light sensitivity even if the surgery produced positive outcomes for their vision. 

Regular eye exams are essential for protecting your eye health and can be even more crucial after laser eye surgery. Talk with your eye doctor about laser eye surgery. They can help if your light sensitivity continues after your eyes and vision have stabilized. 

Eye Conditions

Light sensitivity can occur as a symptom of multiple eye conditions and eye diseases. However, some common eye conditions associated with light sensitivity are listed below.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis or pink eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a transparent layer covering the inner eyelid and white part of your eye. Although the best-known symptom is pink or red discolouration of the white of your eye, other common pink eye symptoms include:

  • Discharge
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Watery eyes
  • Itching or burning
  • Light sensitivity


Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of your eye, underneath the white part of your eye. Common symptoms of uveitis include:

  • Redness
  • Floaters
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Discomfort or pain

Although most causes of uveitis have few permanent impacts on eye health, it can develop severe symptoms if untreated. Potential complications of uveitis include cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment, and vision loss.


Cataracts affect your visual abilities but can also include symptoms of glare or halos around lights. For example, if you have a cataract, your eye may feel bright lights burn or are uncomfortable. It can also cause rings or halos around light sources, even at night.

Other cataract symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dim colour vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Feeling a film over the eye(s)
  • Decreased night vision

Wearing Sunglasses Too Much

It might sound counterintuitive when we know how sunglasses are crucial for protecting our eyes from UV damage. But wearing your sunglasses too much can increase photophobia. The key takeaway is how and why you wear sunglasses matters. 

Wearing sunglasses with UV protection is always a must. But what about wearing your sunglasses at night? Do you wear sunglasses indoors?

If you wear sunglasses too dark, use sunglasses indoors frequently, or wear them in dim lighting conditions, it can worsen your photophobia

Your eyes naturally adapt to various lighting conditions using pupil dilation. Still, overreliance on sunglasses can train your eyes to increase light sensitivity. If you have no other eye conditions or injuries, talk to your optometrist about how you use your shades.

No eye doctor will recommend avoiding sunglasses entirely. But they may advise you about your eye care practices and sunglasses are better for your eye health.

Managing Light Sensitivity

Light sensitivity can be a pain, but there are management options available. Our Red Deer Eye Centre team is here to treat your total vision wellness, from eye health to eye comfort.Book an eye exam to learn about your eye health and how we can help you treat light sensitivity.

Written by Dr. Daryl Berger

Dr. Berger was born and raised in Red Deer. After studying at Red Deer College and the U of A, he graduated with honours from the optometry program at Waterloo in 2007. Daryl enjoys music, cars, biking, hiking, snowboarding and travel. He and his wife, Pamela, have twin boys and a dog named Gus.
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