What is photophobia?


Photophobia is a heightened sensitivity or intolerance to light or any form of visual stimuli. It does not mean what the name suggests, as in a fear of light.


“Having light sensitivity, or what we tend to call photophobia, is extremely common during a migraine attack. Perhaps as high as 90% of people have that light sensitivity during a migraine. I would back up and say, many of us don't really like the words photophobia, and phonophobia, because you know, the phobia really does refer to a fear of a certain stimulus, and that's not what we're talking about. You know, we're talking about actually hypersensitivity to lights, and sounds, and other types of stimuli.

So, like with the other types of sensations, I mean, people with migraine, during an attack, are going to be most sensitive to the light stimulus, as well as other types of visual stimuli, so it's not just light. It's patterns, I'm sure that many of you out there who have migraines certainly would agree with that, that you know, light is bothersome, but so is driving down a road if you have, you know, flickering visual phenomena going on in the periphery of your vision, or you know, walking down a supermarket aisle, and seeing the products go by you on the side, that's bothersome, as well.”


Photophobia is a heightened sensitivity or intolerance to light that can come in various forms such as sunlight, fluorescent lighting, cell phone screens, computer monitors and televisions. In addition, photophobia can also be a sensitivity to visual stimuli such as flickering lights and patterns.

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Todd Schwedt, MD

Professor of Neurology
Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona

As a Professor of Neurology the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona, Dr. Todd Schwedt has seen thousands of migraine patients and evaluated a large number of scans of our hypersensitive brains. His research using advanced MRI techniques has been widely published. He serves on the Board of Directors of the American Headache Society, is the Vice Chairman of the Headache and Facial Pain section of the American Academy of Neurology, is a member of the International Headache Society Classification Committee, and is an Associate editor of Headache, Cephalalgia and Pain Medicine journals.