The Link Between Migraine and Light
Migraine affects approximately one in seven individuals, meaning a billion people around the world of every are impacted, often on a daily or weekly basis.
Of that broad demographic, eight in ten people with Migraine experience increased photophobia - sensitivity to light - before or during their Migraines, and half of those report light as a major direct trigger for Migraine episodes.¹
Being exposed to flickering and flashing lights, glare and sunny conditions, or fluorescent and LED screens are all seemingly unavoidable situations in everyday life, but these forms of light stimulation are most closely linked to Migraine.
A proactive approach to prevention can mean less time in darkened rooms.
What the Research Says
Early research focused on the effect of light at the blue end of the visible light spectrum, finding provable links between exposure to blue light and photophobia as well as ocular Migraine. Blue light is found in both natural sunlight as well as in artificial light sources, including the LED lighting behind computer and mobile phone screens.²
This led to an expansion of the "Blue light glasses" market, where see-through lenses are marketed as blocking blue light that triggers photophobia and Migraine. The reality is that these lenses often block only a small percentage of specific blue light frequencies in order to keep a clear lens, but we will save that for a blog post.
Importantly, further clinical research has identified that red light wavelengths are also responsible for triggering photophobia, which means that from Migraine to post-concussive syndrome, blocking red light is key to providing the best protection and therapy.
Clinical research specialists at Kings College Hospital, London further identified the specific blue and red light wavelengths that causes sensitivity in people with Migraine and tension-type headaches.³
Dr Burstein’s research team at Harvard University also found that a green lens not only significantly reduced photophobia but also reduced headache intensity.⁴
All of this is to say that there are not only strong links between Migraine and light, but that it was not a surprise that a peer reviewed study supported the theory that a green MigraLens filter is the best prevention and therapy for Migraine.⁵
¹ Giffin NJ, Lipton RB, Silberstein SD, Olesen J, Goadsby PJ. The migraine postdrome: An electronic diary study. Neurology. 2016;87(3):309-313. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000002789
² Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society, 1988, Classification and diagnostic criteria for headache disorders, cranial neuralgias and facial pain, Cephalalgia, 8, supplement 7, S19-S28
³ Maine A, Vlachonikolis I, Dowson A. The wavelength of light causing photophobia in migraine sufferers and tension-type headache between attacks, headache 2000, 40, 194-199
⁴ Noseda R et al, Green light alleviates Migraine photophobia. Neurology 2017;88:(16 supplement)
⁵ Pyzer, Ian & Turner, Ann & Dowson, Andrew. (2005). A Prospective Study Investigating the Effectiveness of a New Lens Filter (Migralens) in Reducing the Impact of Migraine. Headache Care. 2. 171-176. 10.1185/174234305X56596.