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A Survey Sheds Light on a Common Migraine Symptom

A Survey Sheds Light on a Common Migraine Symptom

When it comes to migraine symptoms, depending on someone’s experience, many things can come to mind, such as flashing lights of aura, nausea and vomiting, and debilitating head pain. But for many, light sensitivity is one of the most disrupting symptoms because it keeps people confined to environments they can control.

Last fall, TheraSpecs Company, a producer of tinted glasses designed to filter out the light which can worsen light sensitivity or trigger an attack, released a report on the subject, called “The Impact of Light Sensitivity.” I was able to have a conversation with Gregory Bullock, the Marketing Manager at TheraSpecs and the designer of the survey.

The impact of light sensitivity

Though the impact of migraine is often studied, TheraSpecs wanted to look at the impact of light sensitivity specifically. The company surveyed 385 people with multiple conditions including migraine, fibromyalgia, post-concussion syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and eye-related disorders. Light-sensitivity, in terms of the survey, refers to when people have a lower threshold to light. It can include “the triggering aspect of light where exposure … to any type of lighting … trigger symptoms of a condition,” explains Bullock, as well as photophobia, which includes the painful aspect of light sensitivity in migraine and other chronic conditions. This is different from temporary light-sensitivity that anyone can experience, for example—when you leave a dark room and go outside on a sunny day. The impacts found were large. Almost half of respondents had experienced light sensitivity for over ten years, and 81% cited light sensitivity as a trigger for pain or other symptoms of their condition.

Feeling less alone

One intention of the report was to help those with light sensitivity and photophobia feel less alone. For example, the 84% of respondents said they avoid going into stores and public places. The activities that those with light sensitivity miss out on are often things that others take for granted: “We’re not talking about [people with light sensitivity] wanting to go hike Mount Everest … these are daily activities that they are missing out on … because of their sensitivity to light.”

Spreading knowledge and awareness

The report was also meant to spread awareness, with the hope that readers would be able to make a connection between light and their symptoms if they hadn’t beforehand. Though many in the migraine community have had attacks for years and have acquired a fluency in how light affects their condition, for others it may not be so clear-cut. For example, Bullock points out that those with post-concussion syndrome or traumatic brain injury may not connect the dots right away since often the injury—and symptoms—are new.

The hope is that the survey results, and a greater understanding of light sensitivity in general, can go beyond the individual in spreading awareness. One example that Bullock brings up is “getting [workplaces] to think about how light can actually affect people in the office.” He also mentions that some people are already catching on; for example, technology has started to embrace features that make devices more accessible: “A lot of smart phone manufacturers are building in blue light filters.”

A better future lies in better understanding

How does TheraSpecs Company hope to be a part of the advancements in technology for light sensitivity in the future? They hope to help further understand it. “We want to get to that point where [light sensitivity] is a regular thing that people really think about. I think it’s starting to get there. With our survey, hopefully, that’s a spark for people to really understand that. We’ve certainly shared it with a lot of people who have different roles and perspectives, and I think that it’s hopefully changing minds.”

Many of the findings were made into an infographic, that can be found on
You can read the full report here.

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


  • glassmind
    3 months ago

    I omitted blinking and flashing lights (of course) and also video with rapidly changing vantage (steady cam and slow aerial fotage are so much better!) Even an interview that cuts back and forth frequently can be a trigger.

    When I experience a migraine, touch and pressure will spike symptoms as well, so covering my eyes brings less relief and more agony.

    Thanks again for the awareness raising.

  • glassmind
    3 months ago

    Light sensitivity/photophobia has been a life-long problem for me, though I did experienced my firat diabling migraine in my late 30s.

    I have had to get presciptions for adaptations in school and housing relating to light exposure. I experience nausea and vertigo, as well as extreme mood and sleep disturbance when exposed to particular colors of light (esp. blue and led lights), light intensities (too low/too high), and nearly any artificial light at night (electronics get unplugged or thier “indicator” lights taped over).

    Since, that first dibilitating migraine these lights are now also trigger extreme pain.

    Thank you for bringing more awareness to this topic.

  • Janet
    1 year ago

    Theraspecs..tried 2 pair..the frames were so tight I got a migraine 🙁
    The lenses could possibly help if frames were not so snug…I’m home bound just for every reason in this article..I can’t go to most places because of the lighting…so I’m a prisoner at home…life with migraine…respectfully Janet Jones

  • mrst53
    1 year ago

    My problem with light is the blinking kind. Such as the old strobe lights or going thru a grove of trees where the sun flickers.

  • lightweaver
    1 year ago

    me too

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