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Are Blue Eyes More Sensitive to Sunlight?

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A portrait of a young female with blue eyes under blinds shadows, who is trying to escape sunlight

If you’ve ever experienced some kind of pain or discomfort when you’re exposed to bright light, you may have dealt with light sensitivity—also known as photophobia. This condition can be caused by several conditions, like dry eye syndrome or even digital eye strain. But can it even be caused by eye colour?

Lighter coloured eyes, whether blue, green, or even grey, are often more light-sensitive than darker coloured eyes. This is due to different levels of melanin, a pigment that both determines the colour of the eye and protects against rays from the sun.

Are Blue Eyes Naturally More Light Sensitive?

The colour of your eyes is determined by the level of melanin in the iris, the coloured part of the eye. Melanin, a pigment that also determines skin and hair colour, plays a pretty significant role in how your eyes react to light. 

The melanin within the iris acts as a protective barrier against harmful UV rays and bright lights. When there is less melanin present, more light can pass through the iris and reach the retina, which can lead to increased light sensitivity.

People with lighter eye colours such as blue, green, or gray tend to have less melanin compared to those with darker eye colours like brown or black. So it’s that most people with lighter-coloured eyes—like blue—are often much more sensitive to light than people with darker eyes. 

This light sensitivity is clinically known as photophobia.

What Is Photophobia?

Photophobia, or light sensitivity, is a condition in which bright light—whether it be sunlight or artificial light—causes discomfort or pain in the eyes. This can often lead to:

  • Squinting
  • Excessive blinking
  • Closing the eyes
  • A sudden desire to seek out a darker environment
  • Pain and discomfort

Photophobia symptoms tend to differ from person to person. Some people only experience mild irritation, while others may notice shooting pain in their eyes and head. 

A woman holds up her hand against the sun to block her sensitive eyes from the sunlight

Other Causes of Light Sensitivity

Your eye colour isn’t the only factor that can cause light sensitivity. Photophobia is a common condition, and many people find it’s caused by other factors like:

  • Migraines or headaches
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Eye infections
  • Some medications
  • Age-related changes in the eye 
  • Some medical conditions like lupus or Lyme disease
  • Digital eye strain

There’s a wide range of potential causes of this condition. If you notice you’ve recently become much more sensitive to light, you should visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam and a proper diagnosis of what may be causing your photophobia.

The Importance of Eye Protection

Your eyes can be severely damaged by sun exposure, and can even get sunburned. 

The sun emits UV rays, which are a type of radiation. These rays are invisible to the human eye and are the rays that cause your skin to become sunburned if you’re exposed to sunlight for too long. And if the sun can damage your skin, it can also damage your eyes.

The importance of eye protection can’t be overstated. Your eyes are an important part of your everyday life, and if they become sun-damaged your vision can be compromised.

So try wearing sunglasses when you’re outside—even if it doesn’t seem too hot out. Consider purchasing a pair of sunglasses that are labelled to block 100% of UV rays, and wear a hat where you can to give your eyes proper shade. 

This can help keep your eyes safe and healthy by reducing the risk of sun damage!

Professional Eye Care

While there may be an increase in light sensitivity among those with blue eyes, people with any colour of eyes can experience photophobia. Regardless of eye colour, everyone should take steps to protect their eyes from the harmful effects of sunlight.

Regular visits to the optometrist are an excellent way to take care of your eyes. If you’re due for your next eye exam or have questions about eye health (urgent appointments covered by Alberta Health Care), book an appointment with our Eyecare team in Calgary (Bonavista), Olds, Sundre, or Carstairs, Alberta.

Written by Dr. Tanya Sitter

More Articles By Dr. Tanya Sitter

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