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Are Your Eyes Sensitive to Light?

Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, is a condition in which bright light - either natural sunlight or artificial light -  can cause significant discomfort, pain and intolerance. People that experience light sensitivity will find themselves needing to close their eyes or squint when exposed to light and often experience headaches and nausea as well.  In mild cases, the discomfort accompanies exposure to bright lights or harsh sunlight, but in severe cases even a small amount of light can cause pain and discomfort.  

Photophobia is more common in individuals with light eyes. This is because the greater amounts of pigment in darker eyes help to protect the eye from the harsh rays of light. The darker pigment of the iris and choroid absorbs the light, rather than reflecting the light and causing internal reflection or glare experienced by those with lighter eyes. People with albinism, which is a total lack of eye pigment, also experience significant light sensitivity for this reason. 

Acute photophobia is usually a symptom that accompanies a condition such as an eye infection or irritation (such as conjunctivitis or dry eyes), a virus, or a migraine (light sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms of migraines). It could also be caused by something more serious such as an eye condition like a corneal abrasion, a detached retina, uveitis or iritis or a systemic disease like meningitis or encephalitis. Light sensitivity is also a side effect of refractive surgery (such as LASIK) and some medications (such as tetracycline and doxycycline).  

How to Deal with Photophobia

The most effective way to reduce the discomfort caused by photophobia is to stay out of sunlight and dim indoor lights as much as possible while you are experiencing symptoms. Wearing dark sunglasses and keeping your eyes closed may also provide some relief. 

In the summer it is more common for UV to trigger corneal inflammation (keratitis) and cause photosensitivity as well. Wind and eye dryness can also set off photosensitivity, which are more good reasons to wear sunglasses. 

If the sensitivity is new and the cause is unknown, you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if you experience any of the following symptoms:  

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning or pain in the eye
  • Fever and chills
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Foreign body sensation

In cases where the photophobia is a symptom of an underlying issue, treating the issue will likely cause relief in your sensitivity. This will vary depending on the ailment but could include pain medications, eye drops or antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medications. If the sensitivity is mild due to your genetic predisposition or a result of surgery, make sure you take your sunglasses every time you leave the house. People who wear prescription eyeglasses may consider photochromic lenses which automatically darken when exposed to light. 

If you are uncomfortable, speak to your eye doctor about the best options for your condition.  

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CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATE – MARCH 23, 2020

PLEASE CALL 603-524–5770 BEFORE COMING TO OUR OFFICE.

We are all very concerned with the responsibilities that the coronavirus has placed upon us in recent weeks. We strive our best to maintain the health and well-being of both our patients and our staff. We are all familiar with the CDC guidelines of social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizers and staying home as much as possible. We are busy at our office disinfecting surfaces between patient visits and completely at the end of each day.

In order to maintain best practice guidelines, beginning March 23, 2020 our office will remain open, with reduced hours from 9:00AM to 1:00PM Monday through Friday. Daily appointments will be reserved for emergencies,urgent care and essential services only, to relieve the burden on the ER and urgent care clinics. Routine eye care services will be rescheduled to future dates. We will be open for delivery of eyeglasses, contact lenses, vitamin supplements,etc.

If you have an eye emergency and need an appointment, please call ahead with your insurance information available so we may verify it before you arrive. If you are picking up glasses, contact lenses, etc. please call ahead to schedule a time for delivery.

If you are sick, have flu-like symptoms or have been exposed to anyone havingCOVID-19, please call ahead to let us know your circumstances so we may help determine the best course of action.

Winnipesaukee Eye is here to serve the community in this time of need. Medical eye care emergencies don’t take a vacation just because we are experiencing this pandemic. Smart precautionary practices and cooperation will allow us to provide a much needed service while supporting a safe and healthy visit.

PLEASE CALL 603-524-5770 TO LET US KNOW YOU ARE COMING PRIORTO YOUR VISIT.

Thank you.

Doctors McManus and the Zagroba, and the Winnipesaukee Eye Staff.