iPhone screens are like laser beams to migraineur eyes

Awhile back, I wrote a post for migraine.com about how I sometimes realize I have a migraine only when I’m in a public restroom and that awful automatic hand dryer goes off.  “Aha!” I think then. “This noise is always annoying, but today it’s making me feel as if nails are being jammed into my head.  I must have a migraine.”

Other senses can be attacked in this same way, of course.  Just a couple of months ago I was driving Jim and me home from somewhere—it was still winter, and it was dark out.  He was in the passenger seat and took out his iPhone for a second.  The moment he clicked the button to activate the phone, it felt as if a flash of lightning struck my right eye.  I immediately put my hand alongside my temple, creating a shield between my eye and the bright light of the screen.  “Ow!” I said suddenly, not even speaking aloud on purpose—it was a gut reaction.  “What’s wrong?”  “Your phone light is…ow…so bright.”  He tilted it away from me a little, but even seeing it in the passenger window reflected back at me, it hurt.  He apologized but was a little confused—why did this action, one I usually didn’t complain about, to him suddenly become intolerable to me?

We got home and I soon had to take abortive migraine medication. I realized only then that his bright phone screen, always a little bit of a nuisance when it’s dark out, was turned into a weapon that night because I was in the beginning stages of a migraine.

In this case, I don’t think the light from the phone screen was the trigger for the migraine; rather, my senses were heightened due to a migraine episode that had already started.

In retrospect, this sort of thing has been happening to me for a very long time.  I remember my freshman year of college (before my migraine diagnosis but a full five or six years into my then-regular migraine attacks) when I lived with a girl who loved wearing perfume.  Normally it didn’t bother me, but one day I got home from an evening poetry class right as she was leaving to go out. She’d put on her perfume and we passed each other in the hallway.  When I got to our bedroom, the smell was overpowering. I’m sure she only sprayed it a few times, but the scent was unbearable. What was normally a pleasant, light scent transformed into a cloying, intolerable smell. I tried to bury my face in my pillow, and within a half-hour the headache I was getting made itself known as a full-fledged migraine.

I’ve asked this before and was fascinated by the conversation that ensued, so I’ll ask again: will you tell us a story of a time when you only realized a migraine was on its way because you had a sudden, severe intolerance for a certain sight, smell, taste, or sound?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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