Photophobia, Photosensitivity, and Sunglasses: How They Relate

We’ve all seen people wearing sunglasses at what appeared to be the most inopportune times. For example, there are a number of celebrities who wear their sunglasses at all times of the night and day regardless of their surroundings. While they may be wearing their shades merely for image, there are others who don sunglasses for legitimate medical reasons.

One of those medical reasons is a condition known as photophobia. Often confused with photosensitivity, photophobia is a very real condition that can be triggered in many different ways. People who suffer from photophobia will often reach for a good pair of sunglasses at times when other people would not even think of doing so.

The goal of this post is to explain the difference between photophobia and photosensitivity, and to discuss how sunglasses relate to both conditions. According to Olympic Eyewear, people suffering from photophobia and photosensitivity are often careful to keep a pair of sunglasses close at hand.

Photophobia and Sunglasses

Photophobia is a condition triggered when the eyes are exposed to certain kinds of light. It results in eye strain and discomfort in the mildest cases. More severe cases can result in eye pain and even headaches. Studies have shown that the physical symptoms exhibited as a result of photophobia are actually the result of how the brain perceives light rather than any physiological effect on the body itself.

Migraine sufferers are a great example of this phenomenon. During a migraine attack, the brain of the sufferer is in an excited state. That excited state is even more pronounced when the eyes are exposed to light. The light itself isn’t actually causing pain, but the brain sends out pain signals as a result of the light exposure. That’s why migraine sufferers are quick to go to a dark room and turn off the lights in the midst of an attack.

Photophobia can be triggered by natural sunlight, fluorescent or LED lighting, strobe lights, and so forth. Sunglasses are helpful in that they reduce the amount of glare and, thus, the discomfort associated with light exposure. Olympic Eyewear explains that sunglasses do not have to offer UV protection for the purposes of relieving photophobia. What sufferers need are dark lenses capable of filtering visible light.

Photosensitivity and Sunglasses

Photosensitivity is often confused with photophobia even though the two conditions are different. Medically speaking, photosensitivity is actually an allergic reaction as a result of exposure to light. For whatever reason, people suffering with the condition experience in autoimmune response to light. More often than not, it is exposure to natural sunlight.

The most common form of photosensitivity results in hives on exposed areas of skin. However, this is not the only manifestation. Some sufferers have been known to experience watery, itchy eyes instead of hives. Still others will experience both along with headaches.

Sunglasses help only to the extent that they protect the eyes against visible light. People who suffer from photosensitivity in the skin need to keep their skin covered by clothing as much as possible. Sunglasses can protect the eyes simultaneously.

What causes photosensitivity? That depends on the person. Certain kinds of drugs, like tetracycline antibiotics and heart medications, can make a person more prone to the condition. Underlying medical conditions can also be problematic. For example, lupus sufferers have a greater tendency toward photosensitivity.

Photophobia and photosensitivity are both conditions that are directly affected by exposure to light. People suffering from them find a good pair of sunglasses indispensable. They are not looking for attention, just relief from the problems light exposure causes.

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