Darkness rules the den of a migraine sufferer- no bright lights or glaring television screens here. Shades and curtains are pulled down, bed is unmade, and the sign on the door warns, “Migraineur’s lair- Enter if you dare.” No, light is no friend of mine when a migraine headache strikes. Take me to the Batcave, Robin- it’s going to be a doozy.
Photophobia, or Go away from the light!
It’s not your imagination; lights are a major migraine trigger for millions of other chronic headache sufferers. Besides migraine photophobia, sensitivity to bright lights, other causes of light hypersensitivity are eye damage, drug side effects, excessive contact lens wearing, and meningitis.
Below are 10 interesting facts about light sensitivity and migraines:
#1- Photophobia is neurological. When you get a migraine attack, your pupils allow too much light to enter, overstimulating your retina, which in turn send pain signals to the optic nerve.
Night Terrors, Migraines, and Insomnia- 7 Nightmare Headaches
#2- You can’t escape bright lights. Unless you live in a cave, migraine triggers are everywhere. Fluorescent “curly lights” are the norm in most indoor environments, as are glowing computer screens and plasma flat-screened televisions. Car headlights shine in your eyes even on sunny days.
#3- If light gives you blinding headaches, you’re in good company. Photophobia is so common it affects 85% of all migraine headache patients.
#4- Bright-eyed and blinking: Among the people most likely to suffer from light sensitivity are migraine patients, people with cataracts, and those with light-colored eyes.
Migraine Headache Frequently Asked Questions- the Top Ten List
#5- Photophobia happens even when you don’t realize it. Even when you’re not having a migraine, you are more sensitive to lights and sounds that don’t bother non-headache sufferers. Like a magnet, your eyes and ears absorb every irritating sound and flickering light in the background.
#6- Photophobia is one-sided. Migraines characteristically strike one side of the head. Similarly, light sensitivity causes eye pain on one side of the head- in most cases, the same side as the migraine.
#7- Photophobia affects blind migraineurs, too. Scientists wanted to know if bright lights are a migraine trigger for the blind. They examined twenty blind individuals who suffered from migraines, including six who had no perception of light. When subjected to bright light, the blind migraine patients who could identify light patterns reported exacerbated migraine symptoms, while the six subjects who could not detect light saw no difference in migraine severity.
Headaches can Cause Blindness- 4 Facts about Ocular Migraines
#8- Seeing red? Good. In a famous study, migraine patients who wore red-tinted contact lenses for 5-90 minutes experienced significant headache relief, and some even experienced a complete remission of migraine headache symptoms.
Rainbow Colored Sunglasses that Prevent Migraines
#9- Old age: finally, something to look forward to. Some scientific data suggests that symptoms of migraines like nausea, vomiting, and photophobia may significantly decrease by the time you reach fifty.
#10- If you can see it, you can feel it. Bright lights migraines, but so do other photophobia triggers. In addition to light, other factors that cause eyestrain are intense colors, geometric patterns, and flickering. Looking at large, stark white walls may induce a migraine attack. So can glimpsing designs with contrasting colors- black and white bar codes, zigzags, and zebra stripes may cause excruciating eye pain. Also, low-contrast flickering objects seem to bother migraine headache sufferers more than non-migraineurs.
Why light makes your migraine worse
A neural mechanism for exacerbation of headache by light
Why Bright Light Worsens Migraine Headache Pain
Images, from top:
Glen Orbik, Thomas Weidenhaupt, mageo, M a x y, @Doug88888