Light sensitivity and headaches often go hand-in-hand for many patients. Light can trigger episodes of intense head pain or migraines, and any light exposure often makes the entire experience feel a little bit (or maybe a lot) worse too. Unfortunately, outsiders may not completely understand or appreciate the true impact of light sensitivity on various headache disorders, so we offer ten facts that just may change their minds.
#1—Among people with light-sensitive migraine, as many as 88% may also be triggered by light
Light sources can absolutely be a catalyst for attacks, but research has previously only proposed that (at most) two-thirds of patients are affected in this way. However, in a recent survey conducted by TheraSpecs Company, we found that it may actually be underreported; in fact, nearly 90% of light-sensitive migraine patients believed light acted as a trigger for their headache attacks and other migraine symptoms.
#2—Wavelengths of blue light are known to trigger headaches and migraine attacks
We hear all the time how blue light from computer screens and mobile devices is hurting our eyes and disrupting our sleeping patterns. But did you know that it also can lead to headaches and migraine attacks? Specific wavelengths of blue light between 480-520nm can agitate the brain, causing a chain reaction that results in headaches and other migraine-related side effects.
#3—Extreme sensitivity to light can occur even during headache-free periods
One of the unfortunate hallmarks of headache disorders is the heightened sensitivity to light and other stimuli between attacks. This typically occurs because headache and migraine patients have a lower tolerance for light in general versus healthy counterparts—meaning that any light is more likely to cause problems, regardless of its perceived brightness or length of exposure.
#4—It can take less than 10 minutes of sunlight exposure to develop a headache
The intensity of bright days has been known to trigger headaches for a person who is light sensitive, but experts discovered that it may literally take just a few minutes to bring about pain. More accurately, 5 to 10 minutes is all that may be necessary before the onset of a sun-induced headache, with particular potency being recorded during summer months.
#5—Light sensitivity is a core diagnostic signal for vestibular migraine / migraine-associated vertigo
With countless migraine patients reporting vertigo and dizziness as symptoms of their attacks, the medical community eventually developed a diagnostic term: vestibular migraine. And what is one of the key criteria for this subtype of the headache disorder? You guessed it: light sensitivity. In fact, studies have shown that 60% of those with vestibular migraine are intolerant to light, although it is probably closer to 90 percent—on par with other migraine subtypes.
#6—Fluorescent lights have been shown to double the number of headaches experienced by office workers
Fluorescent lighting has been pegged by some as one of the worst inventions for humankind. This of course is an exaggeration as there are countless benefits of fluorescent lights too, but we cannot deny the health issues that can arise from fluorescent exposure. Not only can it bring about eye strain and other pain, but researchers found that it doubled instances of headaches among people in an office environment.(1) Brightness, prevalence of blue light, and the invisible flickering are some of the reasons why it has debilitating effects on those with sensory sensitivities.
#7—Headache and painful sensitivity to light are two of the most common side effects of post-concussion syndrome
Between 40-50% of post-concussion patients have to deal with light sensitivity and photophobia after their head injury. The numbers are even higher for those who endure post-concussion headaches, with researchers estimating 60-90% of patients reporting this symptom. This is why many with the condition acknowledge difficulties with activities such as: watching television; looking at a computer or smartphone screen for a prolonged period of time; and/or working under fluorescent lighting.
#8—Veterans with blast-induced head injury are more likely to deal with light sensitivity
In addition to headaches, 60% of servicemen and women who suffer a concussion or TBI during deployment face persistent sensitivity to light—particularly when compared with those who have non-combat head injuries. Studies repeatedly reinforce that it is the most common visual symptom of post-concussion syndrome and TBI.(2)
#9—More than 75% of men and women with cluster headache report light sensitivity as a symptom during attacks
Cluster headache bouts are characterized by intense bursts of head pain and can often be accompanied by other migraine-like symptoms. And according to a 2001 study of cluster patients, there is a pretty consistent split among men (81%) and women (75%) who also report light sensitivity.(3)
#10—FL-41 tinted lenses can reduce light-triggered migraine attacks
Do you want to have fewer migraine attacks and headaches that are caused by light exposure? Precision-tinted FL-41 glasses are likely your best bet, at least according to research. One study found that patients saw a sustained reduction in the number of attacks—from 6 per month to under 2 per month.(4) And bonus they are a greatly preferred alternative to wearing sunglasses inside!