Using migraine sunglasses may be a way of managing hypersensitivity to light, which is called photophobia.
Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder that typically begins between the ages of
Migraine can be debilitating, and finding ways to manage symptoms and prevent episodes is crucial for many people with this condition.
Below, we look at how migraine sunglasses work and what researchers have concluded about their effectiveness. We also explore the available drug-based and natural treatments.
Migraine sunglasses filter out specific wavelengths of light that can trigger or worsen a migraine episode.
People with migraine are often sensitive to natural and indoor light. Some find that the brighter the light, the more uncomfortable or painful it becomes. The blue-green light from digital screens, fluorescent lighting, and the UV rays from sunlight may be particularly triggering.
Research suggests that in people with migraine, the brain’s visual processing center that manages sensitivity to light is hyperexcitable.
Migraine sunglasses have tinted lenses that ease photophobia. Various types, with different-colored tints and degrees of darkness, are available, and a person may need to try several before finding the type that best relieves their light sensitivity.
For some people, migraine sunglasses may reduce the frequency of migraine episodes and ease the pain and discomfort of light sensitivity.
There has been very little research into the effectiveness of migraine sunglasses, and some of what exists is very old. However, it seems that using a rose-pink lens shade called FL-41 may best ease photophobia.
One small 1991 study involved a group of 20 children with migraine who used either FL-41 or blue-tinted migraine sunglasses for 4 months. The researchers found that the FL-41 lenses reduced the frequency of migraine headaches 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 capacity of rose-tinted and gray-tinted lenses to reduce light hypersensitivity in people with a neurological disorder called benign essential blepharospasm.
Most participants reported improvement from wearing both types of lenses, but the FL-41 lenses were more effective at reducing sensitivity to light in general and fluorescent lighting in particular, the researchers found.
In a more recent, small
There is no cure for migraine, but a range of pharmaceutical and natural treatments aim to relieve symptoms and prevent or lessen the frequency of episodes. A person might consider:
Over-the-counter pain relievers
These are likely more accessible and affordable than prescription medications. Pain relievers are most effective when taken at the first signs of a migraine episode. This gives the medication time to absorb into the bloodstream and ease the symptoms before they worsen.
Some nonprescription migraine medications include:
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
- naproxen sodium (Aleve)
- aspirin/paracetamol/caffeine (Excedrin)
If over-the-counter medications do not help, a doctor may prescribe pain relievers, such as triptans. A person can take these orally or as a nasal spray. As with nonprescription medications, they are most effective if administered early in a migraine episode.
Some oral options include sumatriptan (Imitrex), naratriptan (Amerge), and eletriptan (Relpax). Nasal spray triptans include sumatriptan (Tosymra) and zolmitriptan (Zomig).
However, triptans are not effective for everyone with migraine. Contact the doctor about alternatives if a specific triptan is not working.
CGRP monoclonal antibodies
Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) monoclonal antibodies are a new type of migraine treatment. They were developed specifically to treat this condition. Examples include erenumab (Aimovig) and fremanezumab (Ajovy).
During a migraine episode, the nerves and blood vessels of the head release CGRP, which is involved in the processes that cause pain. These new medications target CGRP and prevent a migraine episode from developing.
People receive these types of drugs by subcutaneous injection — either monthly or every few months. A person can visit a healthcare professional or, after some instruction, administer the injections at home.
Onabotulinumtoxin A, or Botox, is a toxin that acts on the nervous system. One session of Botox injections may block pain signals in the nerves of the head, neck, and shoulders for around 3 months.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved this as a preventive treatment for chronic migraine, which involves having headaches on 15 or more days per month. The treatment appears to reduce this frequency by around 50%.
A doctor administers Botox by injecting small amounts into specific points on the face, head, and shoulders.
A person might also try one or more of these natural approaches to migraine treatment and prevention:
- Ginger: A
2014 studyin 100 participants found that ginger powder was comparable to sumatriptan, a prescription migraine medication. This may be an attractive option for people who are concerned about the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
- Yoga: A
comprehensive 2014 studyfound that adding a yoga program to conventional treatment led to more significant symptom relief. Yoga may improve blood flow and reduce muscle tension, helping to ease migraine symptoms.
- Acupuncture: A
2012 systematic reviewevaluated research into acupuncture for migraine. The authors found that overall, acupuncture was an effective option. For anyone considering this approach, it is crucial to find a licensed practitioner.
Photophobia, or light hypersensitivity, is a common symptom of migraine, and sunlight, bright light, and changing light levels may trigger migraine episodes or worsen existing symptoms.
Using migraine sunglasses may help because they filter out specific wavelengths that may trigger or worsen migraine episodes.
In addition, a range of over-the-counter, prescription, and natural approaches to treatment may ease symptoms or prevent migraine episodes from occurring.