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Does Light Sensitivity Cause Migraines?

June 11, 2013

Anyone who suffers from severe, constant headaches knows what triggers a migraine. Light.

In fact, it takes a mere second for light to cause a migraine, and about 20 to 30 minutes in a dark room for migraine symptoms to decrease from this exposure.

While there is not a lot of scientific backing to prove this hypothesis, between 66 and 88 percent of people who suffer from migraines note being sensitive to light. Not only is light recognized as something that triggers a migraine, it is also seen as an element that can increase the pain and severity of one of these headaches.


More about Light Sensitivity

Another word for extreme light sensitivity is photophobia. The sun, fluorescent lights, and flashing or flickering bulbs may trigger photophobia (and consequently, a migraine) in an individual. Even though medical professionals are still working to discover exactly what causes migraines, it is possible to determine whether or not light sensitivity is what triggers a migraine on a case by case basis.

What Triggers a Migraine?

As medical professionals try to understand what causes these constant headaches, a common hypothesis is that the pathway between the optic nerve and the retina may actually trigger migraines. “The culprit,” as it is being called, “is a new pathway that underlies sensitivity to light during a migraine episode.” Currently, doctors are studying the theory that electrically active neurons in cells traveling from the retina to the optic nerve to see if this might be where migraines originate.

Lessen Migraine Symptoms by Avoiding Light Triggers

– Consider using photochromic lenses in your everyday eyeglasses
– If possible, switch from fluorescent lighting to incandescent bulbs
– Don’t be afraid to close the blinds or use drapes to filter the light in your home
– Use an anti-glare screen for your computer to avoid the harsh and sometimes flickering light of computers


If you or a loved one suffers from migraines, what helps to protect you from light? Are there tips and techniques you can share with the disability community of Canada that may help them avoid triggering migraines?

While the pain of a migraine may be invisible to the outside eye, the internal pain of such a headache can be disabling. If you have severe, constant headaches, seek professional help. Avoid anyone telling you there are no solutions. A unique solution is available to those who take the time to research their symptoms, record the patterns and occurrences of attacks, and consult a medical professional.

Migraine relief is just a conversation away.


Image made available by Nesster on Flickr through Creative Commons License.

*Please note: All research for this article is compiled from direct and third party sources. Mention of programs, organizations and companies does not imply support of The National Benefit Authority.  Pictures are for creative purposes only; they are not intended to sell or promote products for the NBA and belong to the accredited individual, organization or company.

Read additional Disability Living blog posts:

Resources for People with Invisible Disabilities
Canadian Artist “Sees the World in Black and White”
Have You Heard of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
What Is Sensory Defensiveness?
The Invisible Disabilities Association of Canada

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