Treating the underlying cause of chronic dry eye may help improve photophobia. OTC eye drops, tear duct plugs, and tinted sunglasses are some of the available treatments.

Chronic dry eye is a condition that may cause regular eye dryness, burning, or grittiness. Some people also experience sensitivity to light, which is called photophobia.

A small 2022 study found that dry eye disease was the most common eye-related cause of photophobia in adults. Photophobia is also a symptom of migraine headaches and traumatic brain injury.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes and treatment methods for chronic dry eye and photophobia.

The eye is covered by a tear film that helps keep your eye lubricated and protected from environmental irritants.

The tear film also plays a key role in light refraction. This refers to how light is bent, or scattered, on the surface of your eye before reaching the retina.

Research suggests that a stable tear film is important for optimal vision. However, dry eye can impact your tear film in several ways, which could affect the way light is refracted into your eye. These include reducing tear production and increasing:

  • tear evaporation speed
  • ocular inflammation
  • small erosions on the surface of the eye

You may find that different types of lights also trigger symptoms of photophobia if you have dry eyes, including:

  • television, computer, and phone screens
  • fluorescent lights
  • flickering or glaring lights
  • sunlight

Speak with a healthcare professional if you experience sensitivity to light. They could properly assess your eyes and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan that’s right for you.

There’s limited research regarding the treatment of photophobia caused by dry eye disease.

That said, your treatment plan may include a combination of medical and at-home remedies.

Medical treatment

A healthcare professional will start by developing a treatment plan for the underlying cause of dry eye. This will focus on keeping the eyes lubricated, such as by increasing tear production or retaining tears.

Some treatment options for chronic dry eye may include:

It’s important to speak with a doctor if you also experience migraines or depression.

Migraines are the leading cause of photophobia, while depression is linked to more severe symptoms of dry eye. This may be due to increased inflammation or taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are medications for depression.

A healthcare professional can help develop a treatment plan that considers treatments for dry eye, migraines, and depression.

Natural remedies

It’s important to protect your eyes, especially when going outside. Research suggests that wearing tinted lenses may help reduce light sensitivity and pain.

A small 2017 study found that 85% of participants with photophobia found symptom relief when wearing glasses with at least one tint color. The most effective lenses were:

  • blue
  • green
  • yellow
  • purple

That said, it’s important not to wear your sunglasses when you’re inside because you can make your eyes more sensitive to light. Similarly, staying in dark rooms for long periods may also increase your sensitivity.

Research has also found that applying warm compresses to dry eyes may help lubricate them by increasing tear film stability, tear production, and how often you blink.

Does dry eye cause light sensitivity?

Research suggests that dry eye may cause light sensitivity, also known as photophobia.

Why do I suddenly have photophobia?

You may suddenly experience photophobia for several reasons, such as having migraines, an eye condition like dry eye, or a recent traumatic brain injury. Speak with a healthcare professional if you experience photophobia. They could provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for you.

How do you treat photophobia in dry eyes?

Treatment for photophobia in dry eyes involves addressing the underlying cause. Some treatment methods may include OTC eyedrops, prescription oral or eye drop medications, wearing tinted lenses, and applying warm compresses.

Photophobia and dry eye can both be very uncomfortable and even painful eye conditions.

It’s important to speak with a healthcare professional about your symptoms. They could help provide a treatment plan that’s right for you.