Migraines suck. There I said it. Do you know what’s one of the worst things on top of the massive list of symptoms you can experience with each migraine? For me it’s migraine light sensitivity, this can be one of the most disruptive, painful, and downright annoying symptoms that can pop up with a migraine.
I’ve lived with migraines for over 15 years, and have learned quite a bit about migraine symptoms and specifically migraine light sensitivity. So let’s dive into what light sensitivity is and how to help with reducing the painful symptom and trigger.
Photophobia & Migraine Light Sensitivity
Migraine light sensitivity is called photophobia, and it affects around 80% of people who live with migraine. Its symptoms can range from mild eye pain and mild annoyance to having lights, to you needing to lay down in a pitch-black room to feel relief.
Light sensitivity can follow a person throughout an entire migraine, or it can appear during specific stages of a migraine. For example, it can come on during your pre-attack or prodrome when you begin to feel annoyed with lights before the migraine attack has begun.
This can then pass as the migraine progresses. Whereas for others, the sensitivity to lights continues until postdrome, or the migraine hangover concludes. I find a combination of both occurs for me. Sometimes I will have sensitivity for a very short period, and there are other migraine attacks where the light will bother me for days. Everyone is different, and every migraine can be different. I find in the summer with the sun being so bright this can be a common summer migraine trigger.
Is Migraine Light Sensitivity a Symptom or a Trigger?
It can be both! For some people being in overhead fluorescent lights for long periods of time can be a migraine trigger for them. While others light only when they are experiencing a migraine and head pain. A migraine trigger is something that causes a migraine to be brought on or is more likely to bring about a migraine attack when interacting with that trigger. For some people, food, sleep, stress, weather, temperature, lights, and medication can be a trigger. Light is actually common, it’s been reported that 1/3rd of migraineurs are triggered by lights.
Light sensitivity can be caused by:
- Blue Light
- Fluorescent Lights
- Flashing Lights
- Changing in lighting
- Glare from screens
Light Sensitivity Symptoms
Common light sensitivity symptoms can include, among other migraine symptoms:
- Eye Pain
- Eye rubbing
This list is not exhaustive of every possible symptom, however, outlines the most common with light triggers and light-sensitive migraines.
There are quite a few options ways to treat migraine light sensitivity at home, at work, or when you’re out and about. Each individual migraineur is unique and what works for one person may not work for everyone who lives with light-sensitive headaches.
When possible in your office, and home space use lamps if you find overhead lighting gives you a migraine. Where possible using dimmer switches can also help with reducing the amount of light. We didn’t want to change out all our light switches so we purchased dimmable smart bulbs around the house that I can control with my phone or voice before I enter a room. As well in your office, if you have a private office space you can utilize floor lamps as opposed to overhead lighting, or desk lights to help reduce the amount of light in your space.
Blue Light Blocking Lenses
You can purchase blue light-blocking glasses from your eye doctor, from an eyewear shop, or from the web such as Amazon. These will help reduce the strain and glare on your eyes when looking at TVs, Phones, Computers, and Electronic Devices with screens.
Computer & Electronic Dark Modes
I use the program called F.Lux to help reduce the brightness on my screen and turn all phones and laptops to dark mode for my colour options to help as well.
Theraspecs have been incredible for me, they’re specific glasses dedicated for when you’re in overhead fluorescent light spaces. They reduce the light from reaching your eyes and are designed specifically for migraineurs with photophobia. They have been a lifesaver and I use them for conferences, common meeting spaces, malls, grocery shopping, and anywhere I cannot control the lights! With these glasses, I’ve had an incredible reduction in my migraines triggered by lights.
For a couple of years, I had Migraine Botox prescribed for me. Botox helps with blocking the neurotransmitters that carry pain signals to your brain and can last up to two months, and most people get their injections done every 3 months. I did not find the procedure painful, and it did provide me relief from migraine pain.
Cool Towel & Medication
For some migraines even when you do all the right things and avoid all the possible triggers you can, it can still strike with light sensitivity. When this happens I find laying in a dark room with a cool towel over my eyes really helps. As well as ensuring you take any medication as needed for your attack.
Here are some simple tips to help with reducing dehydration and migraine symptoms which can occur with light sensitivity.
Migraine pain can be absolutely horrible, however, there are things you can do to help with potentially reducing the pain. I hope this post gave you some ideas on how to reduce migraine light sensitivity pain and help to understand more about how to control the lights in your environment when possible! As I mentioned above, this is not medical advice and I encourage you to speak to a medical professional about your own migraine treatment plan and medication recommendation.