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Why Are My Eyes Suddenly Sensitive to Light?

Posted Aug 4, 2023 | Eye Health

A sudden change in your vision is never a fun experience. If you’ve found that your eyes are suddenly a lot more sensitive to changes in light, you may be finding it annoying, uncomfortable, and—if you aren’t sure what’s causing this change—even frightening.
Sometimes the causes are obvious: maybe you’re dealing with a recent eye infection or suffer chronic migraines. But if you find yourself suddenly experiencing an unexpected onset of eye sensitivity, the first order of business should always be to go see your doctor. If you don’t have an optometrist yet, be sure to use our Find a Doctor tool  to locate one in your area.

In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the common causes of light sensitivity, and how you can help protect yourself.

What causes light sensitivity?

The conventional name for this increased sensitivity to light is photophobia, which literally translates to “fear of light.” And while fear might not be the first emotion you feel when dealing with light sensitivity, it’s normal to become concerned with changes in your vision. In fact, photophobia itself is not a medical condition. Rather, it usually manifests as a symptom of some other problem. Here are some of the most common culprits:

Migraines and other neurological conditions.

If you’ve ever suffered from migraines, you’re probably familiar with the painful light sensitivity that often accompanies this neurological condition. In fact, it’s estimated that between 80 and 90%1 of people who suffer from migraines experience light sensitivity of this kind, and doctors even use it to help diagnose the condition. That said, photophobia has also been linked to other neurological conditions, like traumatic brain injuries and meningitis.


If you’ve recently started taking a new medication, you may also find yourself suffering from photophobia. Photosensitivity is associated with a large range of drugs, including antidepressants, antihistamines, antimalarials, and others2. When you start taking a new medication, make sure to check in with your doctor about any possible side effects. 

Eye Conditions

Photophobia is a symptom of a whole host of eye conditions, which is why it’s essential to check in with your optometrist if you’ve noticed a sudden change in your light sensitivity. It might be a symptom of a corneal abrasion, inflammation of the eye, conjunctivitis, or some other underlying problem.

Eye Dryness

If you’re noticing increased light sensitivity during the winter, or after a move to a less humid climate, it might be caused by eye dryness. Dry eyes create an irregular ocular surface, which causes light to enter the eye differently, and might result in increased sensitivity.

How to Prevent Photophobia

As we mentioned above, if you are experiencing any increased sensitivity to light, your first course of action should be visiting your doctor. That being said, there are a few techniques you can use to help decrease your chances of developing the condition:
  • Always make sure to wash your hands before touching your eyes. This will help decrease your chances of infection.
  • Try not to wear sunglasses indoors. Prolonged darkness can increase light sensitivity. In the market for a new pair? Take a peek at Eyeconic’s line of UV-protecting sunglasses.
  • Try to reduce the amount of fluorescent light in your house and take a break from looking at your electronics from time to time.
  • Wear a hat or sunglasses when outdoors, especially during the summer. Not sure how to find a good pair of sunglasses? Check out our handy guide for picking out a new pair.
Light sensitivity can be scary, but it doesn’t need to take over your life. If you’re experiencing any changes in your vision, it might be a symptom of a more serious condition. Make sure to visit your optometrist so you can identify the underlying causes of your condition and manage any annoying symptoms.

Information received through VSP Vision Care's social media channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.