Light Sensitivity

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Masashi Mimura

Masashi Mimura, MD (Ophthalmology)

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Content updated on Sep 6, 2022

About the symptom

Photophobia is increased sensitivity and aversion to light. It causes eye discomfort in bright light.

When to see a doctor

Seek professional care if you experience any of the following symptoms

  • Eyes are sensitive to bright light

Possible causes

  • Migraine

    A type of headache that usually presents as throbbing, pulsating pain on one side of the head, sometimes with associated nausea or sensitivity to light and sound. Sometimes, sensory disturbances, such as vision changes (seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines), can occur before the headache. The pain may worsen on exposure to bright lights or wild noise. Triggers for migraine include stress, poor sleep, caffeine, and hormonal changes in women.

  • Cryptococcosis

    Cryptococcosis is a potentially life-threatening fungal infection caused by the Cryptococcus species. The major species causing illness in humans is Cryptococcus neoformans, while infections by Cryptococcus gattii are more rare. The fungus is typically found in soil, on decaying wood, in tree hollows, or in bird droppings. Infections are rare in people who are otherwise healthy; most cases occur in people who have weakened immune systems, particularly those who have advanced HIV/AIDS. Infection can be seen in the lungs, presenting as a pneumonia, and the brain, presenting as meningitis; in some cases, infection may be asymptomatic.

  • Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease

    This disease occurs when the body's own immune system accidentally attacks a particular type of pigment cells called "melanocytes". The eyes are often affected, causing blurring of vision, flashing lights, or floaters. Other areas that can be affected include the inner ear, causing loss of hearing. The surface layer of the brain can also be affected, causing headaches and neck stiffness.

  • Cluster headache
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Toxoplasma

Related serious diseases

  • Cerebral infarction

    Cerebral infarction is the term given to damage to brain tissue as a result of stroke. Cerebral infarction occurs due to reduced blood supply and oxygen delivery to the brain. This results in the death of brain cells and brain damage. It is usually caused by a blood clot or fatty/ cholesterol plaques blocking a blood vessel to the brain, but can also happen if a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain.

  • Measles
  • Meningitis
  • Brain tumor

Questions your doctor may ask about this symptom

Your doctor may ask these questions to check for this symptom

  • Do you experience pain or discomfort in your eyes when looking at bright lights?

  • Do you have a fever?

  • Do you have a sore throat?

  • Are you feeling dizzy right now?

  • Do you feel any numbness or change in sensation?

Other Related Symptoms

Similar symptoms or complaints


  • Burstein R, Noseda R, Fulton AB. Neurobiology of Photophobia. J Neuroophthalmol. 2019 Mar;39(1):94-102. doi: 10.1097/WNO.0000000000000766. PMID: 30762717; PMCID: PMC6383812.

  • Albilali A, Dilli E. Photophobia: When Light Hurts, a Review. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2018 Jul 30;18(9):62. doi: 10.1007/s11910-018-0864-0. PMID: 30058044.

  • Noseda R, Copenhagen D, Burstein R. Current understanding of photophobia, visual networks and headaches. Cephalalgia. 2019 Nov;39(13):1623-1634. doi: 10.1177/0333102418784750. Epub 2018 Jun 25. PMID: 29940781; PMCID: PMC6461529.

  • Diel RJ, Mehra D, Kardon R, Buse DC, Moulton E, Galor A. Photophobia: shared pathophysiology underlying dry eye disease, migraine and traumatic brain injury leading to central neuroplasticity of the trigeminothalamic pathway. Br J Ophthalmol. 2021 Jun;105(6):751-760. doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2020-316417. Epub 2020 Jul 23. PMID: 32703784; PMCID: PMC8022288.

  • Rossi HL, Recober A. Photophobia in primary headaches. Headache. 2015 Apr;55(4):600-4. doi: 10.1111/head.12532. Epub 2015 Mar 19. PMID: 25790126; PMCID: PMC4459705.

Reviewed By:

Masashi Mimura

Masashi Mimura, MD (Ophthalmology)

From our team of 50+ doctors

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Developed by doctors.

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