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Do Migraine Glasses Work?

If you’re one of 47 million working-age Americans affected by migraine headaches each year, you know these debilitating episodes can derail your day with everything from pain to nausea and depression.

Odds are you’ve also sought out a dark room or avoided brightly lit places to cope. Research shows that approximately 80-90% of patients with migraines report light sensitivity during attacks, and 49% report that light sensitivity is their most bothersome symptom during a headache.

“Over the past decade, we have developed a better understanding of why this happens and identified certain wavelengths of light that cause the problem,” explains Kathleen B. Digre, MD, a neuro-ophthalmologist and scientist at John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. “Specialized eyeglass lenses can filter out these wavelengths. I recommend them as an option for patients to try since they have no side effects and many find they prevent some headaches.”

Digre points patients to the newest Avulux Migraine & Light Sensitivity Lenses and longtime standard FL-41 lenses.

How do migraine lenses work?

Light-sensitive cells in the eye, known as intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, are most activated by wavelengths of light at the blue-green and red-orange end of the visible spectrum. Green wavelengths in the middle are the most comfortable.

Rose-tinted FL-41 lenses filter mostly blue light and change the appearance of colors for the wearer. They don’t filter red-orange wavelengths. Avulux Migraine & Light Sensitivity Lenses allow wearers to view colors normally and block higher percentages of blue light. They additionally filter red-orange wavelengths.

Avulux lenses
Avulux lenses are designed to filter wavelengths shown to trigger or intensify migraines while allowing soothing green light waves to pass. Illustration courtesy: Avulux

When should you use migraine lenses?

It’s important to wear glasses during daily events that tend to trigger migraine attacks and light-triggered pain, such as spending time in front of a computer, television, or smartphone, or working under harsh lighting.

Digre advises wearing light-filtering glasses as soon as you sense migraine or light-sensitivity symptoms beginning. These may include a typical migraine aura, facial tingling, eye strain, or pain.

Seasonal weather changes can also increase migraine attacks.

If you have frequent migraine attacks or have chronic migraine and average more than two migraines a week lasting at least three hours a day, consider wearing your light-filtered glasses full-time.

“If you haven’t tried tinted lenses, it’s a good time to check them out,” Digre says.