Benefits, instructions and more

Using sunglasses for migraine may be one way to deal with hypersensitivity to light, known as photophobia.

On 80% percent of people with migraine have photophobia. They may find that bright indoor lighting, sunlight, and changes in light levels can trigger a migraine episode or make existing symptoms worse.

Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder that usually begins between the ages of 35 and 45 and is more common in women. Migraine episodes usually involve a headache of moderate to severe intensity. The pain can be one-sided and pulsating. This and other symptoms, which frequently include nausea, can last from several hours to 3 days.

Migraine can be debilitating, and finding ways to manage symptoms and prevent episodes is crucial for many people with this condition.

Below, we take a look at how migraine sunglasses work and what the researchers concluded about their effectiveness. We are also exploring the medicinal and natural treatments available.

Migraine sunglasses filter specific wavelengths of light that can trigger or worsen a migraine episode.

People with migraine are often sensitive to natural and indoor light. Some people find that the brighter the light, the more uncomfortable or painful it becomes. Blue-green light from digital screens, fluorescent lighting, and UV rays from the sun can be particularly triggers.

Research suggests that in people with migraine, the brain’s visual processing center that manages sensitivity to light is hyperexcitable.

Sunglasses for migraine have tinted lenses that reduce photophobia. Different types, with different hues of colors and varying degrees of darkness, are available, and a person may need to try several before finding the type that best relieves their sensitivity to light.

For some people, migraine sunglasses can reduce the frequency of migraine episodes and relieve pain and discomfort associated with sensitivity to light.

There has been very little research on the effectiveness of sunglasses for migraine, and some of the ones that exist are very old. However, it appears that using a pinkish-pink lens tint called FL-41 may better alleviate photophobia.

A small study from 1991 looked at a group of 20 children with migraine who used either FL-41 sunglasses or blue-tinted sunglasses for 4 months. Researchers found that FL-41 lenses reduced the frequency of migraines from 6.2 to 1.6 per month and also reduced the duration and intensity of migraine episodes.

Another small study, from 2009, compared the ability of pink and gray tinted lenses to reduce hypersensitivity to light in people with a neurological disorder called benign essential blepharospasm.

Most participants reported improvement from wearing both types of lenses, but FL-41 lenses were more effective at reducing sensitivity to light in general and fluorescent lighting in particular, the researchers found.

In a small 2016 study, the researchers evaluated the effectiveness of notch filter lens coatings for people with migraine and photophobia. Participants wore filtered lenses that blocked visible light at 480 nanometers (nm) or 620 nm. The researchers found that both types resulted in a clinically significant reduction in the self-reported impact of headaches.

There is no cure for migraine, but a range of pharmaceutical and natural treatments are aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing or reducing the frequency of episodes. A person might consider:

Over-the-counter pain relievers

These are probably more accessible and affordable than prescription drugs. Pain relievers are most effective when taken at the first sign of a migraine episode. This gives the medicine time to be absorbed into the bloodstream and to ease the symptoms before they get worse.

Some over-the-counter migraine medications include:

  • acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • naproxen sodium (Aleve)
  • aspirin / paracetamol / caffeine (Excedrin)

Triptans

If over-the-counter medications don’t help, a doctor may prescribe pain relievers, such as triptans. A person can take them orally or as a nasal spray. As with over-the-counter medications, they are most effective if given at the onset of a migraine episode.

Some oral options include sumatriptan (Imitrex), naratriptan (Amerge), and eletriptan (Relpax). Triptans for nasal spray include sumatriptan (Tosymra) and zolmitriptan (Zomig).

However, triptans are not effective for all people with migraine. Contact the doctor about alternatives if a specific triptan does not work.

CGRP monoclonal antibodies

Calcitonin gene-linked peptide (CGRP) monoclonal antibodies are a new type of treatment for migraine. They were developed specifically to treat this condition. Examples include erenumab (Aimovig) and fremanezumab (Ajovy).

During a migraine episode, the nerves and blood vessels in the head release CGRP, which is involved in the processes that cause pain. These new drugs target CGRP and prevent the development of a migraine episode.

People are given these types of drugs by injection under the skin, either every month or every few months. A person can see a healthcare professional or, after some instructions, give the injections at home.

Botox

Onabotulinumtoxin A, or Botox, is a toxin that acts on the nervous system. One session of Botox injections can block pain signals in the nerves of the head, neck and shoulders for about 3 months.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it as a preventative treatment for chronic migraine, which involves having headaches 15 or more days per month. Treatment appears to reduce this frequency by about 50%.

A doctor administers Botox by injecting small amounts into specific points on the face, head, and shoulders.

A person may also try one or more of these natural approaches for the treatment and prevention of migraine:

  • Ginger: A 2014 study out of 100 participants found that ginger powder was comparable to sumatriptan, a prescription migraine medication. This can be an attractive option for people concerned about the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
  • Yoga: A full study from 2014 found that adding a yoga program to conventional treatment resulted in greater symptom relief. Yoga can improve blood circulation and reduce muscle tension, helping to relieve migraine symptoms.
  • Acupuncture: A Systematic review of 2012 evaluated research on acupuncture for migraine. The authors found that overall, acupuncture was an effective option. For anyone considering this approach, finding a licensed practitioner is crucial.

Photophobia, or hypersensitivity to light, is a common symptom of migraine, and sunlight, bright light, and changing light levels can trigger migraine episodes or make existing symptoms worse.

Using sunglasses for migraine can help because they filter out specific wavelengths that can trigger or worsen migraine episodes.

Plus, a range of over-the-counter, prescription, and natural treatment approaches can ease symptoms or prevent migraine episodes.


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