Around 39 million people in the United States¹ suffer from migraines. Migraines can cause intense, throbbing headaches that last for hours or even days. The pain can become so severe that you may be unable to participate in everyday activities. Along with the pain, migraines can also cause nausea, visual disturbances, and a sensitivity to sound and light.
Sensitivity to light, or photophobia, is one of the most common symptoms associated with migraines. Exposure to certain types of light can trigger a migraine or make symptoms worse. Limiting your exposure to certain light can provide relief, and migraine glasses can be a convenient way to do it.
If you suffer from migraines, learn more about how migraine glasses work and what to look for when buying a pair.
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Photophobia is one of the most common symptoms of a migraine. Around 80%² of people who suffer from migraines experience photophobia, which may cause them to avoid bright lights.
Research suggests that people who suffer from migraines have an over-excitable visual processing center in their brains. This means that if you have migraines, not only are you likely more sensitive to light, but light could also trigger the onset of a migraine or make its symptoms worse.
Migraine glasses have special tints applied to the lenses. This tint helps block out specific types of light known to cause migraines or make them worse, such as blue light and UV light. The tints can vary in color and darkness depending on your specific needs.
Studies have shown that migraine glasses can be an effective way to reduce both the duration and severity of migraine headaches.
One study gave 20 children who suffered from migraines either blue-tinted or rose-tinted glasses to wear. The children who wore the rose-tinted glasses experienced fewer migraines each month, going from an average of 6.2 per month to 1.6 per month.
Another study also saw improvements in migraine symptoms when wearing rose-tinted glasses, including a reduction in light sensitivity. During one study in 2016, participants elected to keep their migraine glasses instead of receiving financial compensation for their participation because they found the glasses to be helpful.
Wearing glasses with special light-blocking filters can eliminate specific types of light or light on specific wavelengths, known to trigger migraines. This prevents light from overstimulating the trigeminal nerve, which researchers believe may cause migraines.
Most people can comfortably wear tinted lenses. Some may even benefit from wearing blue-light-blocking migraine glasses when using devices like computers, laptops, and smartphones. Screens on these devices emit blue light, which not only could trigger a migraine but can also negatively affect sleep patterns.
If you opt to wear darkened lenses, such as sunglasses, avoid wearing them indoors. Wearing sunglasses indoors can cause your eyes to become more sensitive to light.
If you suffer from migraines, trying migraine glasses could provide relief and help you manage the symptoms. These glasses can also benefit anyone who is sensitive to light, even if it doesn’t trigger a migraine. Light sensitivity can affect you in other ways, such as making your eyes water in bright sunlight or disturbing your sleep after spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen.
Migraine glasses may also help those with vestibular disorders, including vestibular migraines and Meniere’s disease. Vestibular disorders affect your balance, and some of these conditions may also cause photophobia. Migraine glasses can help block specific light wavelengths that trigger vertigo and unsteadiness, giving you relief from the symptoms of the condition.
Finding the right pair will depend on what works best for you. Some people respond better to darker tints, while others benefit from rose-tinted lenses. You may need to experiment with a few options and decide what is most effective for your migraine symptoms.
You might consider trying the following:
This is a specific rose-colored filter that blocks light known to cause pain for many people with photophobia. This is a very popular option for migraine glasses.
Most glasses have lenses that sit at the front of the eye, leaving your peripheral vision exposed. Some offer wrap-around lenses that block harmful light from all directions.
Some people benefit from reducing scattered light, which primarily comes from natural sunlight and causes glare. Polarized sunglasses can help block this type of light. Be cautious about wearing darker lenses indoors, though, as they may make you more sensitive to light over time.
If you aren’t sure what to try, talk to your optometrist. They may be able to tint your next pair of glasses or recommend a brand of migraine glasses to try.
Many people with migraines experience photophobia or sensitivity to light. Certain types of light can trigger migraines or make the pain worse, including blue light, natural sunlight, and light from fluorescent bulbs.
Light can over-stimulate the trigeminal nerve, believed to be a cause of migraines. Migraine glasses have filters on the lenses that block specific light wavelengths. This can reduce the frequency and duration of migraines. These glasses may benefit not only migraine sufferers but also people with light sensitivity and those with certain types of vestibular disorders.
When it comes to buying migraine glasses, you may need to try a few different options to see what works for you. Popular options include glasses with the FL-41 filter. This rose-colored tint is a popular option for migraine sufferers because it blocks blue light, a light known to trigger migraines.
Glasses with wrap-around lenses may be helpful, too, as these provide protection to your peripheral vision. While some people experience relief from wearing sunglasses, it’s important not to wear them indoors. Doing so may cause you to become more sensitive to light over time.
If you aren’t sure which migraine glasses to try, talk to your optometrist for recommendations.
What is migraine? | American Migraine Foundation
Neurobiology of photophobia (2019)
Blue light has a dark side | Harvard Health Publishing
Light and headache disorders: Understanding light triggers and photophobia | National Headache Foundation
How light sensitivity & photophobia affect vestibular disorders | Vestibular Disorders Foundation
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