Sensitivity to Light

information on nutrition, causes, harmful drugs, lifestyle

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Light Sensitivity (photophobia or photosensivity) is a condition where your eyes are overly sensitive to light, possibly causing pain, tearing and discomfort. When light enters the eyes, it causes a chemical reaction in the back of the eyes. This reaction, effecting the rods and cones, allows us to adapt to differences between light and dark. The sensitivity may be the result of the rods and cones not recovering efficiently. Other causes include dry eyes and/or corneal issues.

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Pain, tearing, discomfort in sunlight or even interior bright light, or glare on a hazy day.


  • Those with light colored eyes and skin are more sensitive to light
  • Deficiency of beta carotene and lutein.
  • Thyroid condition
  • Diabetes
  • Dry eye syndrome makes the cornea more sensitive to light and in severe cases can damage the cornea.
  • Computer eye strain. Studies have shown that people who are on the computer a lot blink less, which can result in dry eyes.
  • Conditions such as some kinds of poisoning, rabies, keratitis and severe conjunctivitis can lead to grey rather than colored vision in addition to light sensitivity.
  • Some drugs and medications can cause light sensitivity. (See Drugs That Harm the Eyes for a more complete list of drugs that make the eye more sensitive to light.)
    • Certain antibiotics
    • Anti-malarial drugs
    • Antihistamines
    • Blood pressure medications
    • Digoxin - is used for heart failure or heart irregularity
    • Photosensitizing drugs


  • Wear sunglasses
  • Note that it is important to first try to find out if there is an underlying cause for the light sensitivity such as a thyroid problem or diabetes. A thorough eye exam is recommended to evaluate the health of the eye.

Diet, Nutrition & Lifestype Tips

Certain nutrients such as lutein, zeaxanthin, bilberry, vinpocetine, l-lysine, a number of vitamins and enzymes, and fish oil may help with light sensitivity and help preserve vision.

  • Supplement with nutrients that have been found to be helpful for light sensitivity.
  • Riboflavin has been found to be helpful in migraines, where photophobia is often a symptom
  • Diet & Lifestyle Protocol - see our recommendations for healthy vision for detailed information about that which can help or harm your vision and health.
  • Make sure your eyes are lubricated with a preservative-free eyedrop if you have dry eyes.
  • Research has found that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin help reduce light sensitivity symptoms.1 Consume dark green vegetables such as spinach and collards, which are high in lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • Always wear sunglasses outside, especially on bright days. (Blue and green eyed people are particularly sensitive to potential sun-induced damage, so the use of eye protection is paramount). Amber and grey lenses are the most effective protection against UVA/UVA and blue light.
  • Increase your driving vision- clean your headlights
  • Slow down. That way, you give yourself more time to react to any unexpected hazards.
  • Get prescription glasses for driving at night if needed (see your eye doctor to determine if they would be helpful).
  • When driving at night, look to the right. Look at the roadway's edge to the right to help you avoid the glare of oncoming headlights.
  • Leave the driving till tomorrow. Drive only during the day. Even good lighting conditions at night, such as found in a big city, can be troublesome to someone with night blindness.

Light Sensitivity News

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Recent studies for sensitivity to light.


1. The Influence of Dietary Lutein and Zeaxanthin on Visual Performance, James M. Stringham, et al, Journal of Food Science, January/February, 2010.