Light sensitivity is a well-known symptom of migraine headaches, but most people don’t realize that light can cause them as well. One surprisingly simple solution might be pastel-tinted lenses, which have been found to effectively reduce the effect of lights or patterns that trigger visual migraines or even prevent these severe headaches entirely.
“About 18 percent of women and six percent of men in the U.S. suffer from migraines. Common triggers include dehydration, stress and lack of sleep,” explains Sandy T. Feldman, an ophthalmologist and the Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center in San Diego. “For other people, it’s a visual trigger related to repetition and high contrast, like black words on a white background or a blinking light on a computer screen.”
People who get migraines have a more than usually sensitive (“hyper-excitable”) brain.
As the migraine takes hold, the brain partly shuts down and becomes less active. The aura that accompanies some migraines — with symptoms such as flashing lights, blind spots and difficulty seeing — is essentially this “shutting down” process spreading across the brain. Sufferers often have to lie in a dark room for a few hours until the migraine passes.
Wearing sunglasses can help to a limited degree, and wearing colored glasses—especially those with a rosy tint—can work even better. But why? One theory is that tinted lenses redistribute the “hyper-excitement” in the visual part of the brain. A University of Michigan study found that brain activity stabilized when migraine sufferers wore tinted glasses, with about 70 percent of participants reporting significant pain relief.
“The challenge is determining which color works best for each patient. For some, pale blue might be best, and for others it’s pink. It’s a process of trial and error,” says Dr. Feldman. “The glasses are tinted light enough to be worn indoors, such as in situations where an attack may be triggered, or during a headache episode to reduce its length and severity.”
Unfortunately, precision-tinted eyewear isn’t the answer for everyone. This remedy applies to only a small portion of migraine sufferers, those with headaches primarily triggered by visual stimuli.
“There is no standard treatment for migraines, but many patients find that drinking plenty of water, eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, and not overdoing it with painkillers or caffeine can really help,” advises Dr. Feldman.
She adds, “While there’s no harm in experimenting with sunglasses, it’s important to consult your doctor to get a firm diagnosis and individual advice. There may be visual triggers you are unaware of or other lenses that might help your particular condition.”
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