Photophobia, or light sensitivity, is one of a migraine headache’s landmark symptoms. In migraineurs, photophobia can affect the perception of light both during a migraine (usually by intensifying the pain) and between migraine attacks (typically by feeling uncomfortable). Photophobia can also accompany non-migraine headaches—I occasionally experience it during a tension-type headache.
As I mentioned in my first post, the majority (66-88%) of migraineurs experience photophobia. You might experience a bit of photophobia when you walk outside after sitting in a dark movie theater and find yourself blinking profusely, but this isn’t really photophobia. For many migraine sufferers, just looking at a light during a migraine attack can be excruciating. For others, certain kinds of light are always uncomfortable. By “certain kinds” I mean wavelengths, that is, colors, of light.
Angel, 16, described how she feels during episodes of photophobia between migraine attacks. “Light, in general, can feel uncomfortable. It makes your head feel tense like a headache, but more focused… your eyes really hurt.” Angel would normally take refuge in a dark room or put on sunglasses. “Most of the sunglasses I wore were black, not brown, but I couldn’t really tell a difference.”
A study conducted in 2000 at the European Institute of Health and Medicine Sciences found that low-level (blue) and high-level (red) wavelengths of light affected migraineurs differently between attacks than did white light, supporting the idea that tinted lenses, rather than just brown or black sunglasses, might be more protective against photophobia during a migraine. Are your eyes feeling uncomfortable at the desk? Read the rest of this entry »