Growing up we believe that people with light-coloured eyes are more sensitive to light, but how true is this? The scientific term for light sensitivity is photophobia, which is discomfort caused by difficulty focusing in bright lights. It can be a mild temporary nuisance (such as when going outdoors in bright sunlight) or a debilitating condition leading to headache and eyestrain (such as in some suffering from concussion). Sunglasses provide relief for most, but sometimes even they are not enough.
During an eye exam, the doctor checks to see how your eyes reacts to light. Lighter-coloured eyes have less melanin pigment, meaning they are unable to filter out sunlight as well as darker eyes. Thus, those with blue or light hazel eyes do tend to be more light-sensitive. Regardless, there are still many people with dark eyes that are light-sensitive.
The problem of photophobia escalates once you find it necessary to wear glasses indoors. Although uncommon in the general population, we see this often in our concussion patients. Concussion symptoms include not only sensitivity to light, but also to sound, motion, and other distractions. In Vision Therapy, we work with different coloured filters, as well as relaxation techniques, to reduce photophobia.
Fun Fact: Did you know that eye colour is typically not determined until around age 3? Even then, eye colour can change throughout adulthood with certain metabolic conditions.
Written by: Sandra Mazur & Dr. Natalia Fong
Image Credit: Mathew Janzen