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Why Am I So Sensitive to Light?

We all experience some degree of light sensitivity. Episodes can occur when we’re walking outdoors, turning on the lights, or opening the curtains in a dark room. For some, photophobia occurs in tandem with migraine episodes. In other instances, it might indicate an issue with the brain or eyes. 

Sometimes a temporary or chronic eye issue can cause sudden or occasional photophobia. Harlem VistaSite Eye Care in New York City can help you determine if your light sensitivity is caused by a relatively simple-to-fix issue like dry eyes or pink-eye, or if there’s something more serious in the mix.

Common causes of light sensitivity 

The cause of photophobia can range from minor irritation of the eye to significant inflammation of the brain. Cases of light sensitivity should not be brushed off, especially if they occur alongside other symptoms. Common causes of light sensitivity include: 


Perhaps the most common cause of photophobia is migraines, affecting up to 80% of people who experience them. If your light sensitivity seems linked to your headaches, you should consult with a migraine specialist first. 


Known commonly as pink eye, conjunctivitis is a type of inflammation that causes eye pain, crusting, and redness. It’s usually temporary, though persistent photophobia warrants a discussion with your doctor.   

Dry eye syndrome 

Another common cause of light sensitivity is having dry eyes. Your tears contain a balanced ratio of oil, water, and mucus. If your tears are poor quality, they will evaporate faster, leading to sensitivity. 

Corneal abrasion 

Injuries to the cornea can lead to light sensitivity and ulcers, especially if left untreated. If you suspect that sand, dirt, metal, or another foreign object has entered or injured your eye, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. 


Though rarer than other causes of photophobia, inflammation of the brain or spinal cord can lead to light sensitivity, as well as brain damage, hearing loss, and even death. If you’re experiencing photophobia alongside a severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, and fever, seek medical help right away. 

Diagnosis and treatment 

Assuming your photophobia is not caused by a severe injury or infection, the team at Harlem VistaSite Eye Care can help you diagnose what’s causing your sensitivity to light. 

If dry eye syndrome or conjunctivitis is to blame, we can prescribe medicated eye drops to keep the eyes lubricated and clean. We also offer amniotic membrane treatments, which heal the surface of the eye from damage caused by dryness or abrasion. 

To learn more about photophobia and its treatment options, schedule a consultation by calling 646-453-6506, or book an appointment online.

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