Light Is a Frequent Trigger of Migraine Attacks, According to New Report

Many patients diagnosed with migraine must also endure painful sensitivity to light during attacks, but a new report suggests that light is also a prominent trigger that must be taken into account.

TheraSpecs® Company surveyed 385 people with light sensitivity, 293 of which also reported having migraine, and discovered that 88% of migraine respondents cited light as a direct catalyst for their attacks. Existing clinical data has previously suggested that light is a trigger for perhaps as many as 60% of patients.1

Dr. Michael Ament of the Ament Headache Center in Denver, Colorado is not surprised by these results. He sees countless patients who identify light as a key contributor to their symptoms, and he notes that this sensory disruption may represent the earliest signs of an impending attack.

“Light sensitivity can be a built-in warning system that you need to change your behavior to ward off a migraine,” he said.

This supports recent studies that show even a few minutes of light exposure (particularly blue light) can lead to chest tightness, shortness of breath and nausea as well as feelings of irritability, anxiety and sadness—all of which may be precursors to a full blown migraine attack.2 Unfortunately, many individuals opt to steer clear of fluorescent lighting, bright sunshine and other known triggers, a practice that can have significant ramifications for their personal and professional lives.

“These findings underscore the frustrating dilemma for people with migraine,” TheraSpecs CEO and Founder Hart Shafer told NHF. “Patients want to minimize the pain and other migraine symptoms that can be brought on by exposure to light, so they seek solace in a dark room or avoid situations with a big chance of a light-induced attack. In turn, that also means their light sensitivity causes them to miss out on activities that are important to them.”

This impact was most noticeable for their jobs, relationships with family and friends, and their ability to go out in public places, according to the report. However, there were numerous other activities that were also restricted due to a patient’s sensitivity to light.

The only effective remedy that enabled migraine patients to participate in these everyday activities was precision-tinted eyewear. 85% of all respondents—regardless of condition—found noticeable relief for their light sensitivity with these specialty glasses, which block certain colors of light that are known to be problematic for people with migraine.

The full report can be found at https://www.theraspecs.com/impact2017/.

Additional references:

  • 1 Digre KB, Brennan KC. Shedding Light on Photophobia. Journal of neuro-ophthalmology : the official journal of the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society. 2012;32(1):68-81. doi:10.1097/WNO.0b013e3182474548.
  • 2 Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. (2017, June 26). Exposure to light causes emotional and physical responses in migraine sufferers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 5, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170626181119.htm
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