For up to 80% of individuals who experience migraine headaches, light can trigger or worsen them. Many migraine sufferers spend a flare-up in bed with the lights off and the curtains drawn to help prevent light from peeking in causing overstimulation.
How does light play a role in migraine headaches, and what can you do when choosing home lighting options to reduce this trigger? Here’s what you should know.
What Causes Migraine Photophobia?
The term “migraine photophobia” describes the sensation of being sensitive to light when having a migraine or when light exacerbates migraine pain. This has been found to be caused by specific receptors in the eye, different from the rods and cones that process light and color. These are called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) and are primarily responsible for detecting the difference between light and dark.
For example, some people who are blind and have migraines suffer from migraine photophobia. Scientists believe that this is due to the stimulation of ipRGCs, which typically remain functional even in a person who suffers complete blindness. Generally, a blind person is able to differentiate between day and night outdoors or between a brightly lit or dim room inside, even if they are unable to make out any objects, shapes, or details of the area.
This led researchers to explore how melanopsin, the light-receptive protein produced by ipRGCs, might be responsible. Migraine sufferers frequently find that blue light is painful or uncomfortable, while green light tends to be less aggravating. Melanopsin is particularly sensitive to blue light, and a migraine headache may stimulate the ipRGCs production of this protein.
How to Alleviate Migraine Photophobia
Getting relief from migraine photophobia can be difficult. Your go-to may be a blindfold, room-darkening window blinds, and a hot or cold pack above your eye. These are great options, but may not work well if you need to remain somewhat functional. Here are some tips to relieve migraine photophobia:
- Use soft lighting in your office area instead of bright, fluorescent light.
- Keep sounds at a minimum, as sensory overstimulation of any kind can worsen migraine headaches and photophobia.
- Wear sunglasses inside or outside. Lighter shades are more suitable for inside, while traditionally dark, polarized sunglasses are better for outdoors, especially if the sun is out.
- Try green-tinted glasses. Green light tends to be more comfortable for someone experiencing a migraine and green-tinted glasses will transform all light coming into your retina to this color.
How to Choose Migraine-Friendly Lighting For Your Home
If you have frequent migraine headaches, the lighting you choose for your home can determine where you’ll spend your time when you have a migraine and even if you’ll be able to retain some functionality.
Dimmable lighting, for example, is a great choice for migraine patients who need to be able to adjust the brightness of a space at any time. LED lighting that changes color and can be programmed to display as green during a headache can also be helpful. Contact Kish Sons Electric to learn more at 608-785-0207.