Light Sensitivity: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Published on
February 14, 2023

According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, light sensitivity affects approximately 20% of the U.S. population. 

Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, is a common symptom experienced by many people. It occurs when the eyes become overly sensitive to light, making it difficult to perform regular activities in bright environments. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatments of light sensitivity, so you can understand how to manage this condition and get relief in Olympia.

Shedding Light on the Causes of Light Sensitivity: What Every Patient Needs to Know

There are several reasons why someone may experience light sensitivity. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Dry Eye or Ocular Surface Disease: When the front of the eye has dry spots or another condition that prevents light from passing through, this can cause bursts of light and increased sensitivity.
  • Eye Color: Patients with lighter-colored eyes, like blue, tend to be more light sensitive due to the amount of light that enters the back of the eye.
  • Cataracts and Other Eye Diseases: Glare and light sensitivity can occur as a symptom of certain eye diseases like cataracts.
  • Ocular Albinism: This rare genetic condition affects the structures within the eye and can cause severe light sensitivity.
  • Migraines or Headaches: Lights can trigger migraines, and light sensitivity can occur as a symptom of migraines or headaches.
  • Macular degeneration: One of the early symptoms of macular degeneration is ligh sensitivity or photophobia. 

Blinded by the Light: Signs and Symptoms of Light Sensitivity

The primary symptom of light sensitivity is a discomfort or pain in the eyes when exposed to bright light. This may include headaches or migraines. Other symptoms include squinting, tearing, and closing the eyes. In severe cases, patients may also experience nausea or dizziness.

In addition to these common symptoms, light sensitivity can also manifest as an aversion to specific types of light, such as fluorescent or LED lighting. This can make it difficult to function in certain environments, such as offices or grocery stores. Furthermore, light sensitivity can be a symptom of an underlying eye condition, such as dry eye syndrome, cataracts, or ocular albinism. As such, it's important to schedule an appointment with our optometrist if you're experiencing light sensitivity, especially if the symptoms persist or worsen over time. We can perform a comprehensive eye exam to determine the underlying cause of your light sensitivity and recommend appropriate treatments or management strategies. To schedule an appointment for light sensitivity in Olympia, please call (360) 491-2121.

From Tinted Lenses to Polarized Sunglasses: A Guide to Treating Light Sensitivity

The first step in treating light sensitivity is to identify the underlying cause of the condition. Our eye doctor can help you determine the cause and recommend treatment options. Some common treatments for light sensitivity include:

  • Treating Dry Eye or Ocular Surface Disease: Once the cause of your dry eye is evaluated our eye doctor can recommend an appropriate treatment for you. There are a wide variety of treatments available for ocular surface disease to alleviate dryness, improve visual outcomes, reduce light sensitivity, and improve comfort.
  • Wearing Sunglasses: Polarized sunglasses can be effective in reducing glare and light sensitivity.
  • Using Tinted Lenses: Certain tints, such as pink, rose, or amber, can help cut out certain wavelengths of light that contribute to light sensitivity and make headaches feel better.
  • Managing Migraines: Patients with migraines or headaches may benefit from using tinted lenses to reduce light sensitivity. In some cases, a neurologist may also recommend medication to manage migraines.
  • Managing Eye Disease: In the event that your light sensitivity is a result of an eye disease such as macular degeneration or cataracts, properly managing your condition is a crucial step in your treatment plan. 

Is Light Sensitivity Compromising Your Vision? Get Help from Our Eye Doctor in Olympia

If you are experiencing light sensitivity, make an appointment with our optometrist to determine the underlying cause and find effective treatment options. With proper management, you can reduce your light sensitivity and get back to doing the things you love without discomfort. To schedule an eye exam with our eye doctor in Olympia, please call (360) 491-2121.

Patients with light sensitivity visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of medical eye care services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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