Photophobia: When Light Hurts, a Review

  • Abdul Albilali
  • Esma Dilli
Headache (R B Halker, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Headache


Purpose of Review

To provide an updated overview of Photophobia with a particular focus on photophobia related to migraine.

Recent Findings

Melanopsin-containing photoreceptors called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) have been identified in the retina and explain the rational for photophobia in individuals who are blind.


Photophobia, a sensory disturbance provoked by light, is a common neurological and ophthalmological symptom. Migraine, a common neurological condition, is pathognomonic of photophobia; however, other primary headache conditions, traumatic brain injury, and impairment of the optic pathway can cause photophobia. In addition, anterior and posterior segment ocular pathology, medications, and psychiatric conditions can result in photophobia. At least 2 (possibly three) distinct neural pathways are involved in photophobia. Some of the basic science regarding these pathways is discussed in this review including the role of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide. Management of photophobia includes treatment of the underlying etiology and conservative strategies such as wearing sunglasses.


Photophobia Migraine Headache Drug-induced photophobia Traumatic brain injury Ophthalmological photophobia 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Abdul Albilali declares no conflict of interest.

Esma Dilli has received honoraria from Allergan and paid travel accommodations from Novartis.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of NeurologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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