Are Red Heads More Sensitive to Sunlight?

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With St. Patty’s Day right around the corner, all you light-eyed Irish folk (like Dr. Battin) should be very conscious of the sun come parade day!

If you have blue, green, or gray eyes, you may have noticed yourself squinting into the sunlight more than your brown-eyed counterparts or needing a respite from the fluorescent lights at work. You may wonder if it’s all in your head — or is there truth to the rumor that people with light eyes are more sensitive to sunlight?

According to Duke ophthalmologist Anupama Horne, MD, the answer is yes — your baby blues are indeed likely contributing to your squinting and discomfort under bright lights.

The Truth About Light Eyes and Light Sensitivity

Horne explains that photophobia — the term used to describe light sensitivity — typically affects people with light eyes because they have less pigmentation in multiple layers of the eye than those with darker eyes. Because of this, they are unable to block out the effects of harsh lights like sunlight and fluorescent lights.

Horne is careful to note that photophobia refers to light sensitivity, but does not refer to actual permanent loss of vision.

Photophobia may cause a person to have difficulty seeing or focusing in bright lights, or even cause pain around the eyes. So, squinting or rubbing your eyes often when you are in harsh light may be a clear sign that you have some level of photophobia.

Get Out of the Sun

The good news is that photophobia resulting from light eye color is typically easy to remedy.

Simply avoiding prolonged time spent in harsh lighting or bright lights or wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats when outside should alleviate symptoms associated with light sensitivity.

When to See a Doctor

If you’ve taken the necessary steps to diminish light sensitivity but still find it hard to see or experience pain, it’s time to visit an eye care specialist.

Eye care specialists are trained to diagnose and treat any causes of light sensitivity that may be the result of disease, including abnormalities in the structure of the cornea, iris, conditions such as albinism, and other congenital or degenerative diseases of the retina.

If you’re one of those fair-haired, light-eyed people out there experiencing problems with sunlight, schedule an appointment today by clicking here!

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