Many people with migraine experience photophobia, an abnormal sensitivity to light. Photophobia can occur both during a migraine attack and between attacks, causing both natural and manufactured light to cause pain and discomfort. For some people, light may act as a trigger for a migraine attack.1,2 Photophobia can cause people to avoid going outside on sunny days and seek shelter in darkened rooms. However, light isn’t always avoidable. One of the ways some people with migraine combat photophobia and prevent migraine attacks is by wearing tinted glasses.
What research has been done on tinted glasses?
Several clinical trials have studied the effect of tinted glasses in people with migraine. One study conducted in 2002 compared glasses that filtered conventional white light with a control pair of glasses that were just tinted but didn’t filter light. The participants used the different glasses and recorded the frequency of their migraine attacks in a headache diary. The frequency of attacks was marginally lower when the optimal glasses that filtered out light were used.3
Another study involved 20 children with migraine, conducted in 1991. The children were randomly assigned to wear glasses with either a FL-41 rose tint or a blue tint for four months. The frequency, duration, and severity of migraine attacks were recorded. After one month’s wear, all the children had an improvement in the frequency of migraine attacks, but only the children wearing the rose-tinted glasses had this improvement sustained up to four months. In the rose glass group, the frequency of migraine improved from 6.2 per month to 1.6 per month.4
How are migraine glasses different from regular sunglasses?
Researchers have found that only certain wavelengths of light causes photophobia, which makes finding migraine glasses that filter these specific wavelengths very important. Currently, the FL-41 tint is the only known option that specifically targets this light without being too dark like sunglasses. Outdoor FL-41 lenses are also available and offer more protection than regular sunglasses. However, sunglasses are designed to block the bright sunlight, and while they can be worn indoors, prolonged wear of sunglasses indoors may actually cause the eyes to become more sensitive to light, as the eyes adapt to the darker shading of sunglasses.
How can I find migraine glasses?
Tinted migraine glasses are available without a prescription and can be purchased online or in certain eyeglass stores. There are several different manufacturers, offering different styles and price points.
Main A, et al. The Wavelength of Light Causing Photophobia in Migraine and Tension‐type Headache Between Attacks. Headache. 2000 Mar;40(3):194-99. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1526-4610.2000.00028.x. Abstract
Main A, Dowson A, Gross M. Photophobia and phonophobia in migraineurs between attacks. Headache. 1997 Sep;37(8):492-5. Abstract