What Is Photophobia?

Photophobia is not a fear of having your photo taken, or a fear of cameras, or of looking at pictures, or of photosynthesis occurring. Photophobia is defined as an abnormal sensitivity to light. Those suffering from photophobia may experience pain, headaches, and suffer from co-morbid conditions such as anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Sensitivity to light can be exacerbated by fluorescent lighting.

Imagine you’re in a dark movie theater. When the movie ends, instead of exiting through the lobby, you exit from the dark theater into the parking lot. The brightly lit parking lot. You squint, you look down, fumble for your sunglasses, or put your hand up over your eyes. Those who suffer from photophobia experience this either a large part of the time, or (unfortunately) all of the time. It can be a debilitating condition.

Symptoms of Photophobia

The problem here is how much photophobia can impact your life. Photophobia is one of the main complaints for those who suffer from computer vision syndrome. Additional symptoms of computer vision syndrome include:

  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Visual fatigue
  • Dry, irritated eyes
  • Blurry vision

Working with Photophobia?

Try Fluorescent light filters to reduce the harshness and eliminate glare.

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Computers and Photophobia

These are symptoms of computer vision syndrome, but they are also precursors to photophobia. According to the American Optometric Association, computer workers’ most common health complaints are vision-related; studies indicate that 50 to 90 percent of computer workers suffer from computer vision syndrome. So, for many people, their work environment is contributing to their photophobia, and photophobia can then carry over into their personal life.

The causes for photophobia go beyond the workplace. Prolonged computer usage is a problem and a contributing factor – to the extent that medical professionals now recommend that computer users take a five-minute break every hour to prevent computer vision syndrome.

Proper Lighting for Photophobia

It’s important to look beyond the computer, though. Consider that office spaces typically have glaring overhead lights, while ambient lighting in the 30-50 foot candle range (300-500 lux) is all that’s really necessary to work.

For those who require additional lighting, individual task lighting can be used at your workspace.  If you hold your hand over your eyes like a visor, and it is easier on your eyes, then you are experiencing over-illumination. But don’t overlook other factors that contribute to photophobia. Photophobia may be a symptom of:

  • Dry eyes
  • Migraines
  • (Hangovers)
  • Light eye colors
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Meningitis

Those suffering from prolonged symptoms of photophobia should seek medical attention, according to AllAboutVision.

Preventing Photophobia

What steps can you take to prevent and alleviate photophobia symptoms?

Arguably, reducing ambient lighting levels is one of the easiest solutions. You can do this by:

  • Installing lower wattage lamps
  • Using task lighting
  • Using light filters, fluorescent light covers or diffusers as necessary.

Other things that may alleviate eye strain include ensuring there is natural lighting, good contrast in the workplace, low humidity, and that there is color variety in the workplace. (Bright colors also have other emotional benefits in the workplace as well!).

If you are unable to change your work environment, you can do other things. Make sure you aren’t taking any medication that is causing light sensitivity (and while you’re talking to your doctor about that, rule out any other underlying medical reason).

You can also wear contact lenses that help block out light, which can alleviate many symptoms. Also, use eye drops or sunglasses, which will also help reduce glare. By taking these steps, you can help reduce or prevent the symptoms of photophobia.

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