Double Dark

I was having a period of time earlier this year when I would wake with no signs of a Migraine; not even a twinge or any type of head pain.  Unfortunately, by the time I pulled into the parking lot at work, my head was already starting to act up.

I ran through a whole list of things trying to figure out what might be triggering me.  Of course the first item I looked at was if it was because of work.  I like my job and there are times when it can be a bit stressful, but this really didn’t seem like it was the culprit.  I asked myself many other questions as to what might be going on during these mornings – what did I eat for breakfast; did I eat breakfast; what about dinner; was there a funny smell in or around my car and the checklist of questions went on through many known Migraine triggers.

On one of these morning commutes, it finally dawned on me as to what it might be. You see, my commute to work consists of driving directly into the rising sun and then into the setting sun on my way home.  On this morning, I was fighting with my car visor and just generally trying to avoid the sun as it kept moving around with each turn of the car.


Sometimes I feel like I’ve tried everything to help with my photophobia.  I am not only sensitive to light when I have a Migraine, but lights will easily trigger a Migraine for me.  I have a workplace lighting accommodation and don’t know how I would make it through one day without it.  I’ve even made many modifications to my car which helps me while driving, but they just didn’t seem to be enough for these summer commutes.

While in my car, I wear a hat and sunglasses. I have always found that a hat works well for me and my sunglasses are the ‘fit over’ type. I hardly wear my contacts anymore and these sunglasses are worn or fit right over my regular glasses.  They really don’t look bad and even have tinted lenses on the sides.

The windows on my car are legally tinted.  Tinting laws vary from state to state so if you are interested in this as an option, you may want to check your state laws first.  Where I live, I can tint the back windows any way I want, but it’s illegal to have any tint on the windshield or two front side windows.  Luckily I found a way around this restriction. I had my doctor fill out a form to get a medical exemption from our tinting laws.  I couldn’t believe how quickly it was approved by my state.  Tinted windows are an option that is a little more expensive than I would normally go, but I had to try something different.  I know the tinting helps me because I can see a big difference when my windows are down or when I drive in a car that doesn’t have any tinting.

I do other silly things to my car that help when I drive.  I have a rolled up hand towel which I put behind the rearview mirror. This fills that gap between the two front visors. It really does a good job with blocking the sun when it beams directly in from the front.

I have a solution for when the sun shines through my side window too.  Sometimes the visor can be a little too short to block the sun after it reaches the end of the visor. For this gap, I use a knee pad. It is a simple knee pad that fits beautifully around the end of a visor and extends all the way to the door frame. This blocks the sun from getting in through the side.

With all of these extras and changes to my car, it still was not enough to thwart the sun and glare during my morning commute to work.

After talking with a friend, I ended up getting another pair of fit over sunglasses.  These are supposed to be really good for people with Migraines. The first time I put them on, they felt so much better than my other sunglasses. My brain actually felt like it could relax and not be so excited by the sun.  I kept flipping back and forth between both sunglasses and knew I made a good choice.

To my disappointment, my new sunglasses along with all of the other car accommodations were still no match for the low sun during my commutes.

On one particularly sunny morning and out of desperation, I ended up putting on both pairs of sunglasses!  Don’t laugh; this was what I’d been looking for!  I fit one pair of fit overs into the other, put them on over my regular glasses and drove away.  Two pairs of sunglasses made it double dark and double good, but definitely not too dark to drive considering the position of the bright sun.

Out of curiosity, I had to ask my boys how they looked. One son said I looked a little bug eyed, but only because he was looking for something funny.  My other son said he knew something was a little different, but it wasn’t bad.  In any case, I keep wearing my two pairs of sunglasses over my regular glasses and have not started off my workday in a cranky mood because of my sun commute in a while.

Photophobia is always a struggle for me. I’d like to hear what you do to help with your light sensitivity.  What crazy kinds of things did you find that help you? What else have you tried? What about at night when we can’t wear sunglasses; what do you do then?

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 (17)
  • grammayumyum
    1 year ago

    Speaking of light sensitivity, what is everyone doing regarding light bulbs? Last year, I was still able to find rough service 120V incandescent bulbs in Wal-Mart, but not anymore. Online, I’ve found rough service 130V bulbs that put out less light. I wish I had bought a few cases of bulbs when the 120V were still available. Fluorescents, halogens, and LEDs all trigger migraines for me. Even with Theraspecs, about the most I can handle is a 20-minute race through the grocery store before the fluorescents will trigger a migraine. I’d love to hear others’ solutions/tips.

  • RobinfromCA
    1 year ago

    We are just finishing up a complete renovation at our house and our builder was very good at pointing out lights that were warmer in color instead of that bright white that feels like someone is stabbing you in the eye. If you have a lighting store in your area they will carry all kinds of bulbs. They are a little more expensive but not outrageously so.

    It took me awhile to realize that fluorescents were a huge trigger for me. I finally pinned it down that I always, without fail, got a headache on Tuesday and Sunday. Then I realized it was the fluorescents lights at the school where I do music with elementary school students on Tuesday and the fluorescents at church on Sunday. More than light sensitive I am sound sensitive and fluorescents not only hurt my eyes but I can hear them hum constantly. Knowing this I can pretreat with MaxAlt and Zofran before I leave and then I hope for the best. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and I go home and grab the ice pack.

  • M2the4
    4 years ago

    I look very strange but this helps. I put my large heated microwaveable bag over my shoulders and back of my neck. Then I get my freezable gel mask and put it on my forehead. Then lie down for half an hour. It doesn’t always work but sometimes the migraine actually goes away on its own. I may repeat this for up to an hour.

  • cindyd
    4 years ago

    I have light sensitivity really bad as well. When I have a headache or not, when I go to bed I lay on my left side and I put the back of my wrist of my left hand in my right eye socket which is where I get most of my migraine pain. My husband is very sympathetic but he kind of teases me about doing that without even thinking. I do it even if I don’t have a headache to keep the light out of my eye. Our fluorescent lights at work are behind me and they don’t trigger me like the ones at our church. Those kill me. I can have a headache within a matter of minutes of sitting down from those (I think it must be the flickering that triggers it too). I keep my house dark too. Sometimes if I have a migraine and the TV is on, the white screen between commercials or during a commercial is like a knife in my eyes!

  • Nina Rose
    4 years ago

    Light is my major problem. I’ve been sensitive to light now for 2 and a half years. I feel if there was a treatment for it I probably wouldn’t have chronic migraines. I also think, because I need to wear prescription glasses, this makes me more sensitive.
    I’m pretty good at avoiding light where possible! I wear prescribed glasses that are specially tinted, when I’m inside and when I’m outside, I wear the over-sunglasses. If its very sunny, I won’t go outside at all even if it means missing appointments etc. I have a sun hat but I don’t really like using it because I feel very silly indeed! A hood is also handy for blocking that bit of light that gets in at the top sometimes

    In the last few weeks I’ve become a little less sensitive, so I got a lighter tint. It’s not noticeable really to anyone else but to me its a massive difference. I can see now!(better) 🙂
    I stopped driving when I got sick as I can’t even sit in the passenger seat and keep my eyes on the road (without experiencing serious pain). And getting an aura behind the wheel is scary! 🙂 I would be worried that I wouldn’t see things in time because the tint does diminish my vision! Can you see ok with all that?

    before I got my tinted glasses I used to wear three pairs of sunglasses and they weren’t even overs! so I promise I won’t laugh at you 😀
    Thanks for writing this its always nice to know there are people like me!

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    5 years ago

    I have also used shooting glasses, which come in varying colors. The actual color used by the particular patient can be important. I wrote about different color options and how to figure out which is the best for your particular brain here: http://migraine.com/blog/what-color-of-eyewear-is-the-best-for-light-sensitivity/

    I also wrote about a long list of changes I made for myself that have helped so much with my light sensitivity issues, that I no longer have to wear sunglasses inside my home every day. http://migraine.com/blog/migraine-awareness-month-8-let-there-be-light/ I can even open my drapes now to see the fields of horses beyond my house!

    The one thing I haven’t managed yet, but have been working on, is an idea I got from Annie a few years back – tinting my car windows with a medical exemption. I know where I need to get it done, the cost (about $250 for the whole car) and how to get through the paperwork. Now I’m just waiting to see my specialist in a couple weeks to get the prescription for the exemption I forgot to ask for the last time I saw her!

  • TNmigGal
    5 years ago

    I was looking for a really dark pair of sunglasses (I don’t wear any prescriptions) and kept doing research on the web. I was frustrated because it seemed like even the really expensive ones just weren’t dark enough. I finally found a blog written by a pilot that experienced migraines and his solution was to get welding safety glasses. I had worked jobs before that required safety glasses and had got them from a reputable website (www.safetyglassesusa.com) – so I went online and found some welding (grade 5) safety glasses – and they only cost around $15!. I’m not saying these are right for everyone, but they are the darkest glasses I have found that still allow me to drive. They have a slight green tint to them, but that doesn’t bother me. And for the price, I am able to have several pairs and don’t worry if I lose or break one. I know glasses are a highly personal choice, but I wanted to share my inexpensive, yet highly effective (for me) experience. I am not affiliated with the safety glasses website, but wanted to include it for anyone that was curious. I have ordered many times from them and have never had any issues.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    5 years ago

    Thanks for the information, TNmigGal!

  • Annie author
    5 years ago

    TNmigGal – My oldest son does some welding so I can only imagine how dark your lenses are. I’m so glad they work well for you! I’ll have to look closer at the lenses he uses.

  • Stone Cairns
    5 years ago

    Thanks for the tip! I’ve been wanting some cheap glasses for rougher, dirtier adventures.

  • HorseAndCarriage
    5 years ago

    Have you checked out MigraShades migraineur sunglasses? That’s what I use outdoors/in the car during daylight. See my reply to the person below for more info.

  • dhmoffat
    5 years ago

    What sunglasses do you have Annie that are supposed to be really good for people with migraines? Do they have a name and where can we get them? Thanks for sharing!

  • dhmoffat
    5 years ago

    Thank you all for the information it is a great deal of help.

  • Annie author
    5 years ago

    Hi dhmoffat – the sunglasses I picked up have an FL-41 tint to the lenses. This lens tint is supposed to filter out the wave lengths that are frequently a problem for Migraineurs who are more sensitive to light. I ordered these extra dark lenses online. I don’t have an indoor pair yet as some of the other comments mention, but that is something I will be looking into next. Thanks! Annie

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    5 years ago

    We just happen to have information on Theraspecs in this link;

    http://migraine.com/sponsored/sponsored-proven-migraine-relief-with-new-theraspecs-glasses/.

    Nancy

  • Stone Cairns
    5 years ago

    I’ve been using TheraSpecs (http://www.theraspecs.com/) for about a year now and they have been a big help. I have both the indoor and the outdoor tinted pairs. Often, I think they are the difference between “close to a migraine” and “having a migraine” as I move through the world. In particular, they make an amazing difference in my ability to tolerate florescent lights or flickering bulbs. I like the indoor ones especially because the tinting helps me but people are still able to see my eyes through the glasses and I can have a much better connection with people.

  • HorseAndCarriage
    5 years ago

    I don’t know what Annie uses, but I love my MigraShades (www.MigraShades.com), which are sunglasses made for women with migraines! They not only are stylish, but have big lenses that are very dark and block out the harmful wavelength of sunlight (blue). The arms are wide to help with side light. The lenses are polarized to help with the glare. If you wear prescription glasses, you can have them put your prescription in the lenses. (For indoors, especially fluorescent light, I wear TheraSpecs tinted migraine glasses – http://www.TheraSpecs.com.)

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