What color of eyewear is the best for light sensitivity?

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.
 

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?

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.

Comments

View Comments (32)
  • Kellieannp
    5 months ago

    I know this is an old conversation, but I have a question. First my back ground, I have light sensitivity and optical migraines as well as hemiplegic migraines. One doctor put me in a very light yellow tint and I was in sever pain. I was tested by a woman who did overlay where light blue worked. However when I used the light blue over lay sometimes it seemed too dark. Now my optical neurologist suggested FL-41 a rose, boysenberry tint. has anyone tried using that as a regular daily lens?

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    5 months ago

    This would be a great question to share in our Q/A section if you’d. Feel free to post this here as well. – https://migraine.com/q-and-a/ Hopefully others will be along shortly to share their experiences with this particular tint.

  • Brian in TN
    5 years ago

    Just ordered a pair of Uvex Genesis Black Frame Vermillion (pink) Lens safety glasses to wear at work, they are supposed to reduce eye strain from fluorescent lights and computer monitors. I’ll let everyone know in a few weeks if they help my headaches or not, $10 doesn’t seem much of a gamble and the lenses can be changed for $5. I’m also trying Optx 20/20 Hydrotac Stick-On Bifocal Lenses that will attach to the inside of nearly any glasses to create bifocals, they had rave reviews, another $10 gamble. Keep your fingers crossed.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi edwardiwin-ii
    Thanks for sharing what is working for you. We always like to here from our members.
    As Ellen mentioned, mixed headache syndrome is not a headache/migraine diagnosis that exits, and I’ll tell you why. According to The International Headache Society’s International Headache Classification (ICHD-2)which is the gold standard used by doctor to make diagnosis, ‘mixed headache syndrome’ isn’t found. That’s why it is so important to be treated by an expert who understands and stays current on migraine and headache disorders. It is possible to have more than one type of migraine and/or headache, so maybe that is where your doctor was going, but an accurate diagnosis is key. It will help you learn about your disease and get the correct treatment.

  • edwardirwin-ii
    6 years ago

    New member here.
    Thank you Ellen; very informative.
    I’ve recently been diagnosed with Mixed Headache Syndrome.
    I found this article Googling for red tinted sunglasses. I
    have found that red helps me reduce intensity of my
    migraines.
    I discovered this by purchasing different colored light
    bulbs (some I still had from high school). I was figuring
    that since party bulbs are usually at a lower wattage and
    physics knowledge of light intensity, I could probably find
    something better than white.
    So through the trial red was best for me and now that
    there’s CFLs I use a 13W red. It’s nota cure, but it’s helps.
    I know I went a bit off topic, but hopefully this will
    help someone else.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    6 years ago

    edwardirwin-ii – I totally agree with you and think that sometimes it is good to just change our environment if it is helpful. It’s not quite the same, but we actually replaced all of our windows in the house to try to help me with my light sensitivity. This made it possible for me to walk around without the annoying glasses on my face. Not a perfect solution – I’m not sure there is one – but if it helps, I say… go for it!

    I am wondering about your diagnosis of Mixed Headache Syndrome, as such a diagnosis does not actually exist. It sounds like you have several headache and Migraine disorders, so you really need to find out what those diagnoses are so appropriate treatment can be arranged.

    Additionally, I am wondering if you are seeing a Migraine and headache specialist? Here is a link that may be helpful to you: http://migraine.com/blog/looking-for-a-migraine-specialist/

    Thanks for your story!

  • Danielle Turney
    7 years ago

    I found the perfect sunglasses for me, they are black tinted and have a foam type padding that blocks out any kind of light. I can’t go out anywhere without them. As for the red flashing lights triggering epileptic seizures, any color of flashing lights trigger my migraines. I have to leave places that have strobe lights or flashing lights; like at concerts, clubs, WEDDINGS and there area even signs along freeways that trigger my migraines. I am super sensitive to light even when I am not experiencing a migraine, sun light can set me off.

  • Karen Mullins
    7 years ago

    sunglasses ALWAYS!

  • Steven Leninski
    7 years ago

    gold

  • Char Baker
    7 years ago

    Jodi Marie Baker…I read this tonight and thought about you…..check it out.

  • Jill Oglesby Dehlin
    7 years ago

    I was one of the 11 migraineurs participating in the study on colored lenses for migraineurs (published May 26 2011 in Cephalagia). I chose my lens color by looking through a colorometer while looking at an object that is known to cause visual stress in migrianeurs – a black and white striped pattern. I looked at this pattern through every color imaginable. Then I spent time in fMRI looking at the same pattern, with different color lenses, including the one I selected. Cortical stimulation was decreased when I looked at the pattern with the colored lens I had selected. I think the TAKE HOME MESSAGE is NOT to choose a color that worked for someone else, but to take the time to choose one that is most calming for YOU.

  • Jill Oglesby Dehlin
    7 years ago

    Sheesh. I forgot to say that the color that worked best for me was blue.

  • Steven McCormick
    7 years ago

    I just read about this remarkable break through in Israel this morning.

  • Linell Thompson
    7 years ago

    Have the colored lenses helped?

  • Tamara R. Pearlman
    7 years ago

    What color worked for you? Or, did any. How neat to have been chosen for such a test. Hope the headaches are better; however I can’t help believe that they are a remnant of your “disease” you dealt with. Cellular memory and stress…thanks for sharing Jill!

  • cybrsistr
    7 years ago

    I was one of the 11 migraineurs participating in the study on colored lenses for migraineurs (published May 26 2011 in Cephalagia). I chose my lens color by looking through a colorometer while looking at an object that is known to cause visual stress in migrianeurs – a black and white striped pattern. I looked at this pattern through every color imaginable. Then I spent time in fMRI looking at the same pattern, with different color lenses, including the one I selected. Cortical stimulation was decreased when I looked at the pattern with the colored lens I had selected. I think the TAKE HOME MESSAGE is NOT to choose a color that worked for someone else, but to take the time to choose one that is most calming for YOU.

  • Migraine.com
    8 years ago

    With the change in seasons (and spring sunshine!) we’ve had a lot of questions about sunglasses for migraineurs who are sensitive to light. This article has some great recommendations you may find to be helpful!

  • Teri Robert
    8 years ago

    My ophthalmologist recommended that I also make sure my sunglasses are polarized. It really helps with the glare. I have them tinted the darkest gray possible and polarized.

  • Allison Brodeur
    8 years ago

    The cocoons sunglasses look like a great option. I’m interested if anyone has tried them too. I often wear regular big sunglasses over my prescription ones and also alone when in bed with a migraine. They don’t seem too expensive and look more comfortable. I might try to check them out at a dealer in my area.

  • Michelle Brimtown
    8 years ago

    Anyone try cocoons sunglasses? They go over Rx glasses and come w/ different tint colors. I’m thinking about it, have read somewhere before that filtering out blue light can help with migraines. I have transition lenses and astigmatism also. My frames are plastic, and sort of loose fitting. Can’t stand wearing glasses that actually fit when I have a headache going on.

  • Tonia Mcintosh
    8 years ago

    My problem is my prescrition glasses are tinted I always get them tinted, but they arent dark enough for me when im outside, and my eye doc. wants me to wear my glasses all the time b/c of my astigmatism. so that leaves me with the problem of not having enough protection to avoid a migraine, or wearing my dark shades and ignoring my eye doc. and making my eyesight worse. which isn’t really a hard decision, cause i don’t go outside without my shades. lol… Its ashame to say but i’d rather be half blind, without a migraine, than to have perfect vision and feel like someone is drilling through my eye, and bashing me on the head with a louieville slugger at the same time. hahahah…

  • Val Milo
    8 years ago

    darker the better for me too, all types of glare kill.

  • Jerri Ross Stamps
    8 years ago

    My neurologist recommended the darkest shade of sunglasses that I could find. When in a car (driving or riding), the glare off of vehicle glass and chrome bother me immensely, and even in a restraunt, I can not sit by a window that’s close to a parking lot.

  • Joy Perez
    8 years ago

    thanks for the info b/c i will be getting new prescription glasses and sunglasses soon! the sun often makes my head worse or triggers a migraine, therefore, im not outside as often as i’d like to be.

  • Amy Quinn
    8 years ago

    having sunglasses on just hurts my head worse, kind of like how a ponytail hurts. i just squint a lot, have the wrinkle inbetween my eyebrows to prove it haha

  • Janice Odom DZierra
    8 years ago

    Will try brown now. Thanks. I woke up with a migraine. Anything that may help is worth a try.

  • 8 years ago

    I too have found that the brown lenses help me most. I see clearer, yet the bright light does not get into my eyes. I wear them a lot, even around the house.

  • Barbetta
    8 years ago

    I have been diagnosed with migraines for over 34 years. I have found out that the dark pink sunglasses cut the light also they help when its raining you can see the road. I also wear a pinkish purple sunglasses that when I have a slight headache this is what helps with the headache. I bought my pink sunglasses from the sunglass manufacturer because I couldn’t get it around where I live and those are very precious to me. I hope this helps someone. BR

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    8 years ago

    Hi Elaine, Yes, I get tired of the strange looks and comments on my big old brown sunglasses perpetually perched on my face, day or night. I’ve gotten to the point that I just tell people I have to wear them for a medical condition that makes me super sensitive to light – which is the truth. That usually does the trick.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    8 years ago

    Thank you Dr Mauskop, I suppose the orange lense is similar to the brown that I have found helps my eyes and head so much. It’s definitely a great place to start looking.

    I do remember the Nike product and was sad to see it disappear. I wanted them for myself so badly, but I have Sjogren’s and contacts stick to my eyes and are out of the question for me at present. I knew about Irlen at that time, but didn’t realize they could custom tint contact lenses and glasses to whatever you needed. For me this seems like the best solution a Migraineur could ask for!

  • Dr. Alex Mauskop
    8 years ago

    A small study reported several years ago suggested that orange color is the best for migraine sufferers. Nike in collaboration with Bausch and Lomb made a line of orange-tinted contact lenses (Maxsight) for athletes that have also helped some of my patients. Unfortunately, Nike discontinued making them, probably because they did not sell well. One drawback of those lenses was that these bright orange contact lenses made people look scary. One of my patients said that she did not care how she looked because this was the only way she could leave her darkened room, even on overcast days. I now recommend trying large sunglasses with orange lenses. The orange color does not help everyone, but for many it is the best color and it is worth trying.

  • Elaine Gross
    8 years ago

    Thank you Ellen, I’m going to look into this. I’ve always have had problems with light, or perhaps glare. I’ve worn sunglasses during snowstorms, rainstorms, in the evening, and I’ve always felt peculiar.

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