What color of eyewear is the best for light sensitivity?
By Ellen Schnakenberg—February 24, 2011

There are many eyewear choices for Migraineurs who suffer light sensitivity (photophobia). Some Migraineurs like me have become sensitive to light of varying degrees on a constant basis. Others suffer sensitivity only during the time of a Migraine attack. Which one are you?

When I looked for eyewear to help my super-sensitive eyes I didn’t research my choices, which was a real mistake for me. I suffered several years as a result of this mistake. Finding out a few important facts was a key to me being much more comfortable in my daily life.

So, let’s talk about colored lenses:

Many people will find that certain colors are better for their light sensitivity and even their ability to read comfortably. Some find that certain colors are more likely to trigger a Migraine attack too. Learning which colors are best for you is not all that difficult, however trying on various shades and colors of sunglasses at the local department store may yield some clues, but it’s unlikely you will find a full range of colors, and this can be really important for us.

Certain colors actually influence how our brains function. Just as red flashing light can trigger seizures in epileptic patients, specific colors can trigger Migraine and other headache disorders — or calm the brain — depending on the way your specific brain works. Researchers don’t yet completely understand why or how color influences our brains. Did you know colored lenses have even been used to help dyslexic patients see and read, and have been shown to help autistic patients? Different colors filter out distracting light waves and help the brain process information in different ways. This is fascinating stuff!

Irlen Syndrome is a fairly new term being used for light sensitivity. There is a whole site dedicated to the topic and discussion of Irlen Syndrome, and the site ReadingAndLight.com includes a self test and links to the Irlen self test to see if you might benefit from colored lenses. Not all Migraineurs are going to have this syndrome, but many will. Even if you do not have Irlen Syndrome, if you have light sensitivity related to Migraine you may also be able to benefit from colored lenses, contacts or overlays. The site notes that in a small preliminary study including 21 physician diagnosed Migraineurs, over 80% reported decreased frequency and severity of their Migraine attacks.

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There are many videos on the site that explain how color influences the brain, and gives the stories of many who use the lenses. Here is a cute video that describes Irlen Syndrome and the way light sensitivity is diagnosed and treated. Irlen Syndrome – A Teen’s Summary

After testing, the Irlen Institute will tint your regular lenses to your specific color prescription. They can even tint contact lenses! They also provide lots of interesting information on living well with light sensitivity as well as helpful products that Migraineurs may find useful.

For me, I find that I need a brownish lens. For whatever reason, when I put them on, it feels like walking into a darkened room, even though I can see. My eyes almost feel like they are relaxing. My family noticed right away how much better I felt when I changed the color of my lenses from grey which darkened my vision, but did not make me feel much better. The fluorescent lights don’t bother me as much, and an added bonus is that I’m actually able to see better while driving through rain and snow storms, and even at night. The brown lens cuts the glare significantly.

Have you tried lenses with different colors? Have you ever considered tinted contacts to help with day to day light sensitivity?

Profile photo of Ellen Schnakenberg

About Ellen Schnakenberg

Migraine.com’s patient educator/advocate, writer and community leader Ellen, is a lifelong Migraineur. She has been chronic since the mid 1990′s.

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