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Are Blue Eyes More Sensitive to Sunlight?

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A woman with blue eyes standing outside. UV Protection sunglasses should be worn when outside.

If you haven’t heard of photophobia, it is not that surprising. It is a condition where people with lighter eyes have light sensitivity to varying degrees. 

Photophobia can occur in people with blue, gray, or green eyes, and while it doesn’t cause permanent damage, it can be annoying and aggravate other eye conditions like dry eye

If you have a lighter eye colour, you may have already experienced this phenomenon before. That’s why eye protection in the sun is critical, and having a good pair of sunglasses is essential. 

Why Are Lighter-Coloured Eyes More Sensitive?

People with lighter-coloured eyes lack melanin, which is a pigment in the human eye, more specifically in the iris, ciliary body, and choroid of the eye. It is also responsible for the colour of our skin. 

Melanin protects the retina. The retina is a delicate layer of tissue situated on the inside of the eye, close to the optic nerve. Its primary function is to capture the light that has been focused by the lens, process it into neural signals, and transmit these signals to the brain for visual interpretation.

When light hits the melanin, it reflects light back out of the eye. This process is referred to as  Rayleigh scattering. Therefore, when a light-eyed person gets bombarded by bright light, their lack of melanin allows more light into the retina, causing light sensitivity due to the nerves in the back of the eye becoming overstimulated. 

What Are the Symptoms of Photophobia?

Photophobia tends to be recurring with no long-lasting effects that we know of aside from temporary discomfort. However, if you are finding yourself experiencing light sensitivity out of the blue, it is a good idea to set up an eye exam. There may be underlying causes to your specific situation.

As for symptoms of photophobia, these include:

  • Discomfort when exposed to bright lights
  • Regular lighting seems much brighter than usual
  • Sensitivity and aversion to lights
  • Producing more tears than normal
  • Bright spots in your vision, even in darkness
  • Squinting 
  • Shutting your eyes when exposed to light
A partly cloudy sky with the sun shining bright through the clouds.

Is There a Treatment for Photophobia?

Sadly, there is no magic pill that can prevent this condition. People can have photophobic reactions due to many different reasons. So, in order to treat photophobia, your optometrist must determine why you are experiencing the symptoms. They may suggest an array of treatment options.

If you are experiencing dry eye syndrome and the light irritates your eyes, your optometrist will examine your eye and see if you need eye drops or other treatments, depending on what they find during your exam. 

Eye drops can be an anti-inflammatory or an antibacterial, or you may just need lubricating drops to find relief. You may also be prescribed medication depending on the root cause of your photophobia.

Prevention & Protection

No matter what colour your eyes are, you should take necessary precautions when exposing yourself to the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV). The light they radiate can affect nearly every part of your eyes, including the retina and cornea. 

There are several eye diseases that can develop due to UV radiation exposure, such as macular degeneration, corneal damage, and cataracts. 

The best way to prevent photophobia is by wearing sunglasses with UV400 or polarised sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection even when it is cloudy. Partial UV protection is insufficient, especially for people with blue and lighter-shaded eyes. 

Your optometrist can help you find the perfect pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from light sensitivity. 

Protecting Your Vision All Year Long

The first thing you should do is find a pair of sunglasses that will serve as your first line of defence from the sun. Also, when outside, stick to shaded areas, and wear a wide brimmed hat to protect your vision from the sunlight.

Check out our eyewear gallery to see some of the different brands we offer, such as:

  • Andy Wolf
  • Dick Moby
  • Lafont
  • Maui Jim
  • Moscot
  • Woow
  • Yves Saint Laurent

Whether you need a prescription or just regular sunglasses, we will surely have a pair that will suit your style. Contact us at York Mills Eye Care in North York if you have any questions or concerns about your vision. You can book an appointment or stop by to browse our sunglasses selection. We’d be happy to help you protect your eyes!

Written by Dr. Vagners

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