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Are Blue Eyes More Sensitive to Light?

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When lights hurt your eyes, minor irritation can cause you to squint. More severe cases may urge you to hide under your sunglasses, away from bright places. Light sensitivity symptoms can be debilitating and impact your quality of life if it persists.

Blue eyes are more sensitive to light. The light-coloured iris may not protect your eyes from light compared to darker eyes. While you can’t change your eye colour, during your eye exam, your optometrist will search for any underlying eye condition that causes light sensitivity and helps reduce the symptoms.

What Is Light Sensitivity?

Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, is a condition in which bright lights hurt your eyes. The symptoms of light sensitivity can range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of photophobia include:

  • The perception that light is brighter than it really is
  • Difficulty reading
  • Squinting
  • Seeing coloured spots in your vision
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes

Other symptoms like fatigue and nausea can also result from light sensitivity.

Why Are Blue Eyes More Sensitive to Light?

Eyes get their colour from melanin, just like your skin.  Blue eyes get their cerulean hues the same way the sky and ocean do. They have no pigment at all and get their colour from reflecting light.

The iris, the coloured section of the eye, has two layers. In almost everyone, the back layer, called the pigment epithelium, has brown pigment. In people with blue eyes, the front layer of the iris has no pigment, so it absorbs light. 

Darker eyes’ more concentrated pigment allows them to block harsh lights from the sun or fluorescents. Rich, dark tints can protect against intense light. However, dark eyes can still develop light sensitivity related to an eye condition or illness.

A couple who are both wearing sunglasses, smiling and taking pictures of each other

Are Light Eyes More Susceptible to UV Damage?

Ultraviolet (UV) lights can be harsh on anyone’s eyes, but blue eyes and other light shades can be more likely to develop UV-related damage. Bright light can be uncomfortable for those with light eyes, causing them to reach for their sunglasses, even on cloudy days.

UV light from the sun or artificial rays ages the eye’s structures and tissue. Excessive exposure to UV rays can elevate your risk of cataracts, growths on the eye, such as pterygium, and age-related macular degeneration.

Studies show a link between light-coloured eyes and risks of developing UV-related ocular melanoma. Ocular or uveal melanoma is one of the most common intraocular cancers in adults. Those with light eyes should take more precautions to protect their eyes.

How to Protect Your Eyes

Wearing sunglasses is one of the first things people do to protect their eyes. However, selecting a pair should consider function over fashion. Sunglasses with a UV protection of 100% or UV400 protection can block both UV-A and UV-B rays.

If you’re unsure which sunglasses tint suits your eyes, your optometrist can help you select appropriate lenses for your lifestyle and fit your eyes properly to limit sun exposure and light sensitivity.

Some other ways to protect your eyes from UV damage include:

  • Wearing your sunglasses on cloudy days
  • Never looking at the sun directly
  • Wear a hat with your sunglasses
  • Remember, the sun is strongest at midday, and reflective surfaces like snow, ice, or sitting water can make the rays stronger.

Wearing protective eyewear will shield your eyes and reduce symptoms of light sensitivity.

Other Causes of Light Sensitivity

Light sensitivity can also be a symptom of treatable eye conditions. If your optometrist diagnoses and addresses the root cause, your light sensitivity can fade. Light sensitivity can signify the presence of various eye conditions, including:

  • Dry eye disease
  • Digital eye strain
  • Pink eye, or conjunctivitis
  • Corneal abrasions
  • Detached retina

It can also be a sign of a medical problem, like meningitis, encephalitis, or migraines. 

Treatment for Photophobia

When your optometrist treats the condition that was causing your light sensitivity, it will typically fade on its own, but they may recommend specific treatments, such as:

  • Antibiotic eye drops for corneal abrasions and pink eye
  • Artificial tears for dry eye disease
  • Rest or lifestyle advice for digital eye strain

Address Your Light Sensitivity at the Source

Light eyes are more sensitive to light and more at risk for UV damage and associated conditions. Book an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam to assess your eye health and discover what preventative measures you can take to protect your light-coloured eyes.

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Written by Toronto Centre Eye Care

For over a decade, the name Toronto Centre Eye Care has been synonymous with professional service and personal care. We pride ourselves on the level of care we offer our patients—going above and beyond the call of duty to identify a problem and recommend an effective solution.

We look forward to getting to know you.

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