Ophthalmologist Questions Eye Exam

Why are my eyes so sensitive to light?

Whenever I go outside in the daytime, my eyes start watering excessively and they are sometimes hard to keep open. What's wrong with my eyes? Is it an allergy?

18 Answers

The answer to this is short. Consult an Eye MD ophthalmologist regarding the many factors such as insufficient tears, irregular surface of the cornea and possible lens opacities (cataract)
Hi!There are lots of reasons your eyes may be sensitive to light. Most often it is due to surface issues like dryness, but can also be caused by inflammation in the eye or by glare off of cataracts.Given the symptoms you list, the most common cause of spontaneous tearing to light is actually a DRY eye kicking in the back up tear system in the eye! I know it sounds like a paradox, but let me explain about the tear system in the eye:

WE HAVE TWO TEAR systems in the eye. Thebaseline tear system is the one that keeps the eye moist and comfortable, keepsthe window of the eye nice and clear, and keeps out the dirt and debris. Whenyou don't make enough of these the eye can feel dry, gritty, itchy and burning,and you get blurred vision from dry spots because the tears break up,especially when you use your eyes to read, use the computer or stare atthings, and you don't blink as often.

The back up tear system is the one everyone knowsabout, the one you use to cry for emotional reasons, or if you peel onions.That comes from the lacrimal gland, and is all or nothing. It doesn't give youthe one or two tears you need, it dumps out a bucketful. So then you aretearing.!     Thenumber one cause if a tearing eye is a dry eye kicking in the backup system.

Dry eye is also made worse by allergies, and you are exposed to more allergens when you are outside.It is best to come in and get a full examination to see what is going on with your eyes. I'd be happy to see you if you are in my area. Call 610-435-5333 for an appointment.

Lisa S. Bunin, M.D.
Eye, Eyelid, Skin & Laser Surgeon
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Your eyes require a good tear film to be comfortable. Outside environmental factors will cause dryness and irritation and even allergy to dust , pollen or glare from sunlight . Hence your eyes try to protect themselves from those external factors by closing. Lubricants and sunglasses can help.
Difficult issue to address as an isolated problem.
This can be many things. ALL which can be assessed via a careful eye exam...
Most common are irritations of your Cornea or Anterior eye surface. Dry eye, Allergy etc..Also ocular inflammation, cataracts and retinal issues are possibilities...
You probably have dry eye. Please get a pair of good sunglasses to see if they help. The moisture that the glasses retain on your eyes usually help. Preservative free artificial tears can also help. Check with an eye professional to rule out cataract and other diseases that cause light sensitivity.
Hi, the first symptom of an allergy is the itch, and it is more related to seasonal changes and other factors like dust or pollen. Visit your eye specialist to know what is wrong with your eyes.
You could be photosensitive; so wear eye protection before going out. Eye surface disease can cause discomfort and need treatment. Cataracts also can cause light sensitivity and treatment may be required. See your eye specialist to detect the reason.
Sensitivity to light may be caused by a variety of reasons including dry eye, allergy, inflammation of the eye, using some medications and even neurological diseases like post stroke. You may start with using over-the-counter artificial tears and allergy drops (if it's itchy and red) and if no improvement, see an ophthalmologist.
Dry eyes= the tear film diminishes as we age, leaving us often with insufficient tear volume, and in addition we also all suffer inflammation in the back side of the lids that messes with the the oil glands that produce oils onto the tear film to spread out the tears and prevent evaporation. On dry days or windy days, or if you are concentrating at what you are looking at, your blinking rate goes way down, aggravating the situation (the eyes actually water in response to the irritation produced by the dryness). We all recommend hot moist compresses twice a day (for 3-5 minutes) with the use of over the counter artificial tears
Most likely it is dry eyes . Dry eyes make eyes irritated and sentive to light. It could also be a combination of dry eyes exacerbated by allergies ehich could make problem worse. Use nonpreserved tears and see if it improves . Also see an ophthalmologist to get diagnosrd
Light sensitivity can occur due to several problems.
If there is no pain associated with the sensitivity it may be due to dysfunctional year syndrome. If there is pain it may be iritis, an eye disease that requires the attention of an ophthalmologist. Some people are just sensitive to the light and require sunglasses outdoors others may have a retina problem that causes the sensitivity, albinism for example. It is possible but not likely that the tearing is the result of chronic allergy but this would typically be associated with red itchy eyes.
There is most likely nothing wrong with your eyes. Some people are sensitive to sunlight and this precipitates tearing. This is especially true if you have light colored eyes. A good quality pair of sunglasses may not only help with the tearing, but will also block harmful ultraviolet rays that could be damaging. This is not an allergy. If you haven't had a comprehensive eye exam in the recent past, it is probably a good idea to do so.
Great question. It depends on whether or not this is a new phenomenon for you or if it's something you've noticed your entire life. Some people have low levels of retinal pigmentation which makes them more sensitive to bright lights. This would be completely benign (not concerning for an underlying disease). On the extreme end of that spectrum is ocular albinism or oculodermal albinism, which can have significant systemic manifestations and very poor vision, so I'm sure this doesn't apply to you.

Any condition that affects the cornea (the clear, most anterior structure of the eye) leads to photosensitivity/photophobia (sensitivity to lights). This is because there are more nerve endings per square millimeter innervating the cornea than any other part of the human body (I believe the genitals are a close second place). If you've ever had a scratched cornea you would understand how sensitive the cornea can be! The common culprits for photophobia tend to be unmanaged dry eye disease, ocular allergies, contact lens overwear/keratitis, anterior uveitis, and cataracts.

Each of these conditions are managed differently, but the one that should be ruled out sooner better than later is uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea (particular structures of the eye) that can be associated with an underlying disease process (like lupus, syphilis, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, Crohn's disease, etc.). When your doctor identifies uveitis they typically initiate a systemic workup with the assistance of your primary medical doctor. After treatment of the uveitis, the photophobia typically clears up quickly.

So there is obviously more historical information that will be needed by your ophthalmologist or optometrist, and there's no online source of information that replaces an examination by a medical professional. So my formal advice for you is to make an appointment with your doctor. But hopefully this has been somewhat helpful!
What you are describing is usually an allergy, although it could be other things. You should be seen...
How long have you had the symptoms of watering eyes?
Do you have blurred vision in one or both eyes with this?
Does it occur when you are wearing prescription sunglasses?
Do you have the sensation of something in the eye?
Do you have itching and/or burning of your eyes?
Do you have allergies to air or household items?
What have you done to relieve your symptoms?
It is difficult to know for sure without an exam. It could be an allergy to something outside, although light sensitivity is not a common symptom of an allergy. The symptom is more commonly associated with inflammation in the front of the eye (Iritis or Keratitis) or certain types of cataract formation. I think it'd be worthwhile to see an ophthalmologist if the symptom is relatively recent and sudden in onset and as debilitating as you describe.
Sensitivity to light may be due to inflammation of the conjunctiva, cornea, sclera, uveal tract. The cause may include irritants,dry eyes,viruses,allergy, trauma, systemic diseases like autoimmune conditions, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis syphilis, toxins, drugs and excessive alcohol ingestion.
Light sensitivity varies but all folks take a bit of time to adjust to the light after being in the dark.  This process is variable and some seem little bothered but others have a long adjustment period.  You seem to be on that end of the spectrum.  It is more pronounced in those with light colored eyes (are yours blue?).  If you have ever gone in a car through a tunnel, look near the exit and you will notice many more lights than in the middle of the tunnel.  This allows your eyes to light adapt before exiting into sunlight which otherwise could be dazzling and lead to accidents.