closeup of woman with sensitive eyes

What Causes Sensitive Eyes and How Can You Treat Them?

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Are your eyes sensitive to light, wind, or allergens? Eye sensitivity can be uncomfortable. It can reduce your productivity. High sensitivity to light may even leave you unable to work on a computer.

But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Read on to find out the most common causes of sensitive eyes and discover effective remedies.

Let’s start by understanding what sensitive eyes are exactly.

What Are Sensitive Eyes?

Sensitive eyes are one of the most common eye complaints today, ranging in intensity from mild to severe.

Eye sensitivity can be caused by something as simple as going out into bright sunlight without wearing sunglasses or being exposed to pollen. Very sensitive eyes may be the result of a serious medical condition, so it’s important to seek medical care.

Symptoms of sensitive eyes depend on what’s causing the sensitivity and can vary from person to person. You may experience any of the following:

  • Eye discomfort
  • Eye strain
  • Eye pain
  • Intolerance to sunlight or any light source
  • Squinting
  • Burning in the eyes
  • Excessive blinking
  • Watery eyes
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Aura

Some symptoms, such as eye pain or tearing, may be more pronounced in one eye.

Eye sensitivity may also come with emotional symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sadness, anger, or mood swings.

Your eyes may be sensitive to light, wind, allergens, certain medications, or underlying diseases. Experiencing light sensitivity for the first time can be especially unpleasant.

Next up, let’s take a closer look at the most common sensitive eye causes.

What Causes Sensitive Eyes?

From sunlight and wind to medication and undiagnosed diseases, here’s what can make your eyes sensitive.

head and shoulders of man seen from behind against glaring sunlight

  • Light – Sunlight and light emitted by screens are among the most common light sensitivity causes. The condition is called photophobia. Photophobia causes include dry eyes, cataracts, migraines, autoimmune disorders, concussions, and other diseases. Often, eyes hurt in bright light because of dry eye disease. You can get light sensitivity in one eye only, a condition known as unilateral photophobia.
  • Wind – Wind can dry up your eyes. If you work outdoors or spend a lot of time outside in dry, windy conditions, you run the risk of developing eye sensitivity.
  • Allergens – Your eyes can be sensitive to indoor or outdoor allergens, or both. Pollen and grass are common allergens that may affect your eyes, especially in spring and fall, when many plants pollinate. Other common allergens include smoke, dust, pet dander, mold, and cosmetic products like mascara.
  • Medication – A variety of drugs can cause eye sensitivity, often in the form of light sensitivity. These include antibiotics, diuretics used to treat high blood pressure, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and oral acne treatments. Artificial tears and eye drops often also cause eye sensitivity.
  • Diseases – In rare cases, sensitivity to light is the result of serious medical conditions that require immediate treatment such as corneal abrasion, meningitis, encephalitis, or subarachnoid hemorrhage. Eye conditions like scleritis or conjunctivitis may also cause sensitive eyes, as can dry eye disease.

If you’re not sure what causes your sensitive eyes, try to pay attention to environmental cues. Do you get sensitive eyes when you’re outside in bright light or use the computer for extended periods? After you take certain medications? On windy days?

Multiple factors may contribute to eye sensitivity, including common eye conditions like dry eye disease. If your eye sensitivity persists, see a doctor.

Are Green Eyes More Sensitive Than Brown Eyes?

Eyes that come in lighter shades have less melanin. Melanin is a pigment that occurs in the iris, giving the eye its color and filtering ultraviolet light.

People with green or blue eyes have less melanin than people with brown or black eyes. This can make their eyes more sensitive to ultraviolet light.

If you have green or blue eyes, you are more likely to be sensitive to bright light. So make sure to put on a pair of sunglasses before heading out.

Why Are My Eyes Sensitive to the Computer Screen?

Eyes sensitive to light and headaches? Your computer screen may be to blame. Computer screens are a source of light and may trigger sensitive eyes or worsen the condition if you have it already.

Digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, as it’s also known, can cause eye sensitivity together with other symptoms such as dry eye, blurriness, and headaches.

Prolonged screen use requires that your eyes focus and refocus constantly. This tires the eye muscles. What’s more, your blinking patterns change, leading to more incomplete blinks, which may cause dry eye syndrome. Flicker, contrast, and glare from the screen only compound the problem.

man seen from behind in a darkened room with glowing computer screens and microphone before him

In summary, using screens every day—and not just computers but also mobile devices and TVs—can lead to computer vision syndrome and dry eyes. These conditions in turn may trigger eye pain and sensitivity to light.

Good to know: Uncorrected vision problems such as myopia can worsen computer eye strain, according to the American Optometric Association. This is true for children as well.

How to Treat and Prevent Sensitive Eyes

There’s a lot you can do to treat sensitive eyes. It all starts with understanding what’s upsetting your eyes.

Is it bright sunlight on the street or your computer screen in the office? An allergen like grass or pollen when you spend time outdoors? Or a certain medication you’ve recently started taking?

Choose the treatment according to the cause. Some of the treatments may also help you reduce the likelihood of getting sensitive eyes again.

Important: When sensitive eyes are the result of an underlying medical condition such as an autoimmune disease or cataracts, it’s crucial to treat this condition first.

  • Give your eyes a break – Resting your eyes is often the first line of treatment for sensitive eyes. Simply closing your eyes for a quarter of an hour can provide relief.
  • Apply a warm compress – A compress can moisturize your eyes and improve the function of the tear-secreting meibomian glands. It’s especially effective against dry eye disease.
  • Wear dark sunglasses for sensitive eyes that block 100% of UV light – Eyes very sensitive to light? Wear tinted sunglasses even on overcast days as part of your light sensitivity treatment. They can help reduce glare sensitivity too, for example when you’re driving. But don’t wear them indoors as that can make your eyes more sensitive to light over time.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses – If the wind makes your eyes sensitive, wear a pair of wraparound eyeglasses. These provide better protection against the drying effects of the wind than conventional sunglasses.
  • Use an indoor humidifier – Adding humidity to the air can soothe sensitive eyes resulting from dry eye syndrome. Lack of humidity is a common problem in air-conditioned spaces, whether at home or work.
  • Reduce screen time – As we’ve seen, prolonged screen time can be a contributing factor to sensitive eyes. Take frequent breaks from the computer as part of your photophobia treatment. You can use the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Wear a face mask outdoors during pollen season – A 2020 study found that a face mask may filter larger pollen particles, helping to reduce nasal allergy symptoms. Adding a pair of sunglasses over the mask can help boost your allergy protection.
  • Use mascara for sensitive eyes – Makeup can contain allergens that trigger sensitive eyes or make the condition worse. If you absolutely must wear makeup, choose an allergy-free product.
  • Refrain from using eye drops for sensitive eyes unless your doctor prescribes them – Eye drops can make dry eyes worse, especially over-the-counter products that contain preservatives. Instead, you can take a natural oral eye health supplement like SightC from Sightsage. SightC has lutein, zeaxanthin, and other phytonutrients that support eye health and the function of the tear glands. Made from plants, SightC provides your eyes with the essential nutrients they need to work at their best. When tight schedules and a fast-paced lifestyle make it difficult to eat healthy, SightC can help safeguard your vision and improve eye sensitivity symptoms.

Customers who have tried SightC love it. Here’s what Catherine, one of our reviewers, had to say about it:

A helpful supplement. I came across SightC on Instagram and instantly was drawn to its potential healing powers being formulated by a combination of natural herbs. I suffer from dry eyes and super allergic sensitive eyes that get further irritated by hay fever. I have been taking SightC for the last month and I have seen an improvement in both my issues. I will continue to take this natural herb combination as every week that goes by the symptoms lessen despite the fact that it is full hay fever season at the moment. I have also been using the Blueberry Gummies.🙏“ – Catherine H., England, United Kingdom

Keep your eyes healthy for many years to come with SightC.

The Wrap Up

Sensitive eyes can come with a host of symptoms ranging from eye discomfort to tearing and blurred vision. It can have many causes, some of which are more serious than others. Often, sensitive eyes are the result of dry eyes or prolonged screen use.

To treat sensitive eyes effectively, you need to first understand what causes the condition. Once you know the triggers, you can follow the right treatment for sensitive eyes.

In the end, sensitive eyes can be a sign that your eyes need a bit more care. Look after them well!

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