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What’s Your Secret: How to Manage Light Sensitivity?

Many migraineurs experience light sensitivity as one of the many side effects of the condition. When in the midst of an attack, normal lighting can seem extremely bright and painful. Atop trying to manage the pain, we become desperate to dim the light, block the brightness, to find some relief. In this What’s Your Secret Video, we share some strategies to address this very real challenge.

 

What tips do you have for turning down the lights?

As with all What’s Your Secret Videos, we invite you to participate! Please share your approaches for turning down the lights in the comment section below. Doing so will help to connect us, remind us we are not alone in navigating the challenges of this disease, and help us learn from one another.

If you would like to mobilize the community around a topic for a future What’s Your Secret Video, please put your idea in the comment section below.

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

  • Drea99
    1 year ago

    The FL 41 lenses (like Theraspecs) has really helped me inside. I also added anti-glare to my glasses and anti-glare screen over my computer at work. Glare, esp. from cars is ruthless! My car windows are tinted per state regulations, but I am thinking of adding more tinting to the windshield (top and bottom 6 inches) and front side windows.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @drea99– thanks so much for chiming in. Helpful to hear what has worked for you. Agree so much about glare being an issue. A quick online search reveals that regulations vary state by state (and fairly widely) in relation to what’s allowed for tinted windows. It can make a huge difference to make this kind of change.

  • Luvmyfam22
    1 year ago

    There are so many aspects of migraines, right!! We need so many solutions for so many “issues”. At this moment, I feel like we are all champions; like the dancers that dance with multiple plates twisting on sticks!
    That being said, I use TheraSpecs glasses when I am inside! Life savers!! My son also bought me a Lifx bulb for one of my lamps and I have control over the light I want. I can even change the colors, so it lifts my mood as well! My 2 favorite solutions!!!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much for sharing the solutions that work for you! I’m a huge fan of Theraspecs as well! One of our contributors, @kerrie, is its co-founder.

    I’ve never heard of the Lifx bulb, but sounds like a great idea, and I will look into it immediately! I love our site for this very reason! Thanks again!

  • JennaJ
    1 year ago

    I have special prescription sunglasses and are as dark as they can legally be made. I wear them inside during work if I am suffering with any sensitivity or feel a migraine coming on. They are helpful.
    What I have not been able to find an answer to, are the terrible and blinding LED headlights coming at me directly as I am driving at night.
    Solutions?

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @Jennaj– Such a good question about how to handle headlights when driving at night. I’ve heard many of our members talking about avoiding driving at night for this very reason. I personally put my sun visor down as far as it will go and when a car is approaching I sit up straight so that I’m looking only at a smidgen of the road for the moment that they pass, avoiding the headlights as much as possible. I’ve been known to blink my brights at people mistakenly thinking they must have their brights on, only to be further blinded when they shine their even BRIGHTER brights back at me to prove me wrong. Awful stuff. Your dark sunglasses sound like a dream. I’ve had that kind of protectant installed on the glass in my car, but alas, they won’t put it on my windshield! I hope others will ring in with ideas to your great question. If not, you might consider posing it also on our Q&A page here in order to get more of a discussion going: https://migraine.com/q-and-a/

  • Glenda
    1 year ago

    I’ve been reading the comments and there are some very good ideas here. Some of them I knew about but some I hadn’t thought of so thanks to everyone. I do have a couple to add that may be helpful. I was reading an article that suggested painting the inside of your lampshades black. That seemed a bit dangerous to me but gave me the idea to look for lamps with black shades. They actually exist and have made a huge difference for me. They don’t look bad either. Secondly, I love the electronic candles with timers and have them all around my house. With those and some small lamps, I get all the light I need in the evenings. Just don’t get the ones that flicker.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @glenda – I’m glad you brought up black lamp shades. I’ve seen those and wondered how effective they are. I agree, the idea of painted lamp shades equals fumes that don’t sound safe AND sound like triggers. And you’ve inspired me to get some timers. I often put the TV on the lowest brightness setting at night if I’m struggling with a migraine to distract me from the pain, and it has a timer in it to turn itself off after a set amount of time has passed and hopefully I’ve dozed off by then). It would be great to have my bedside lamp do the same (even though it is basically a night light in terms of brightness- still I think it’s best for us all to sleep in total darkness). Thanks for the tips!

  • doggiemom5
    1 year ago

    My office has 45 watt bulbs in 2 floor lamps. I keep all overhead lights off. I also keep my office door opened only half way so I can block out as much florescent light from coming into my office as possible.
    At home we have low wattage LED bulbs in all our light fixtures. We try to keep just the floor lamps on in the living room. But it is tough in other parts of our home.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @doggiemom5 – first, I love your username! Do you have 5 dogs? Second, thank you for chiming in with the solutions that work for you to tame brightness. Our community will benefit from your guidance. Floor lamps with the shades facing upward, such that there is no eye-to-bulb contact, can make all the difference!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @doggiemom5 – sounds like you have created a peaceful office space to surround yourself in. Good for you for doing all you can to make your environment as calm as possible. Now, if only your dogs could go to work with you…well, at least the one that can forecast a migraine attack for you!

  • doggiemom5
    1 year ago

    Hi Holly… yes I do have 5 doggies.. One actually senses when my migraines hit and will stick to me like glue. Yes floor lamps with the shades facing upwards have helped me alot. Also in my office I have lavender scented fragrance sticks and a soothing waterfall. All help with keeping me as calm as can be to not prevent a migraine. Sometimes these work and sometimes they do not. I just have to work through them when they hit.

  • TrebleMaker
    1 year ago

    I don’t normally comment on things, but I felt like I had to since photophobia(extreme light sensitivity) is my greatest trigger, followed by strong perfume and diesel fumes, and heat (I live where it gets 100+ in the summer.)

    My eyes have always been sensitive. Unfortunately when I had PRK, they became even more sensitive. I wear polarized sunglasses any time I’m outside, and sometimes when i’m inside (church and grocery store). Yea, my church remodeled and updated to these horribly SUPER BRIGHT lights. I am not kidding when I say its like a bright sunny day in the auditorium!!! I am not the only member whose been affected. I also wear wide brimmed hats and special glasses. (I had PRK to get perfect vision and now have to go back to wearing glasses with tinting and Crizal coating to counteract the brightness! Oh vey!)

    When I get a migraine, usually the only thing that helps is removing myself from the brightness. Go to my bedroom, turn on the AC and put on my herbal mask and turn on my diffuser. My herbal mask is awesome! I leave it the freezer so its nice n cold when I need it. It was made by a lady who had friends and customers suffering with migraine. It covers my forhead, sinus area, temples, and I can tighten it with the Velcro strap.

    Another person commented that they are a teacher, as am I. However, I’m blessed that my walls aren’t white! I did take out half of the florescent bulbs in my class and completely dismantled the ones over my desk and have lamps. It’s still to bright for me though. If I had more than one wall socket, I’d use Only lamps. The kids like as much as I do.

    At home, I NEVER use ceiling lights unless I absolutely have to. I bought floor lamps and they 3 way brightness. Curtains usually stay shut, although I have light diffusing panels under the top layer. My family says I love I a cave, I say I just to live pain free. My bedroom has 2 lamps and a small chandelier (75 watts that only gets used for a few minutes when I get ready.) I use ONLY INCANDESCENT BULBS! Right now I have 4 layers of lace over my window to help diffuse light. If it’s too bright or I want total darkness, especially at night, I made a blackout board. Its thick foam board from the dollar store, covered with this ugly dark brown heavy fabric I lying around. I just pop it in my window behind the tension rod holding up my lace. The lace covers the ugly brown, and voila…relief for a buck!!

    Computer, phone, tablet are All Android, but, unless it’s changed recently, I can only get F.LUX on my computer. Tablet and phone have EASY EYES. This is the only blue light filter I’ve found that doesn’t make your screen all weird. It’s free and I love it! It can be set to come on automatically or you can use it anytime..it’s very user friendly! (Actually my tablet has a blue light filter, but I also use easy yes with it for extra protection!

    This comment is ridiculously long. I hope something here will help someone. Now, I will go put my herbal mask back on as I’m in my 10th hour of having this migraine. Good luck!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @treblemaker – Thank you for being so generous in sharing the resources that have worked for you! I wish the woman who made the herbal masks would go into business so the rest of us could get some!

    A number of people here have mentioned F. LUX- and your mention of ‘easy eyes’ inspired me to look these up in the app store. They certainly don’t make it easy- some are for google, others for microsoft…. I’m hoping to find a way to make it work on my iphone because it’s clearly a great idea.

    What a bummer to have laser eye surgery just to turn around and end up needing glasses to manage light sensitivity! Likely one day they’ll make a surgery for us too- perhaps something like ‘easy eyes’ but in our actual eyes?

    In the meantime, we are grateful to you for sharing all of your tips for managing light sensitivity with the greater community. Most helpful of you!

  • Louis
    1 year ago

    When I am driving in my car, whether the sun shines into my eyes or not, I pull down the sun visor to block the unnecessary light that reaches my eyes. If the sun does become directly ahead, the visor is already in the down position. If the sun is shining from the left side as I am driving, I swing the visor over to the left side window to block the sunlight from that side. A good pair of dark polarized sun glasses is a must for any sunny day while driving. I have found that these methods have reduced the agony of pain from light while driving during the day.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @arthurlouis56 – I love when our site serves the purpose of reminding us that we are not alone. Your comment helped me show my family that I’m not the only one who always has the sun visor down as far as it will go in my car. Many times there is just a slim swath of the road that I can see between the visor and the dashboard. With my hat on and my sunglasses, I often feel I’m suited up for battle! Thanks for sharing- glad you’re here!

  • James Weil
    1 year ago

    I wear light adjusting sunglasses or night driving glasses which have a strong yellow tint. Looks weird but it works. I also have an app on my computer that gives a yellow cast to my screen between certain hours. Helps me get to sleep at night.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @jimw – Thanks for chiming in as to what works for you in managing light sensitivity. Do you know the name of the app you use on your computer or the name of your glasses? Would be great to know in case others would like to follow in your footsteps. Thanks again for sharing your resources/experience.

  • James Weil
    1 year ago

    I got mine from Hammacher Schlemmer on the web. They somewhat more expensive there than the magazine advertised or TV Ads, but they are of high quality, come in a microfiber cloth bag that can be used to clean them, and come with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee. I have tried other, less expensive ones but these seem to be the best.

    I haver a Mac and use f.lux, which is free. It is also is available on Windows, IOS and Android.

    FYI: The night glasses can also be used in place of an app while working on the computer. However I normally keep them in my car.

  • Mrs.Doyle
    1 year ago

    Lights are by far my worst enemy, especially ones that flicker whether slow or fast. We got around that for the most part in our home by using old school incandescent bulbs. They are still around if you look for “Rough Usage” bulbs, which last longer, too! They don’t flicker and they have warm light color, not the cold, harsh, bright, light of LED and the like.

    Which brings up laptops, phones, tablets, tech in general… got myself into settings and changed the screen color to a warmer setting, turned down the brightness, and fiddled with other options till I found some comfort. I changed the wallpaper and screensavers to something you like but something dark, and I leave the device on the home screen when I set it aside.

    There is an free program called f.lux that changes the brightness of your screen in accordance with sunrise/set that takes some of the thinking out of things if you find yourself working on a bright screen in a dark room, which sends me over the edge. It also reminds me that I need to stop working which is important for migraine prevention for me.

    I have a wonderful husband who came with a beautiful home full of skylights, which are a nightmare. I hemmed the edges of simple black fabric panels the same size as the opening and stuck them up with strong magnets since the frames around the opening are metal. They are easy to take down (I’m quite tall) or put up (even shorty husband can manage). Magnets work for an impromptu curtain on a door with a window. It’s just a pillowcase and it works great!

    The curtains I have are dark eggplant, but I was a cheapskate so they aren’t super thick and let through just enough light to see without tripping.

    Our kitchen has fluorescent light fixtures, but we don’t use them, we just turn on every other fixture fitted with incandescent bulbs, or open a skylight partially.

    The fish tank has a fluorescent bulb and the wiggle of the water can be a bit much at times so I try to get something like candles or another warm light between us as a bit of a buffer. It might be psychological but I seem to process candlelight wiggling better than other light wiggling. On occasion the fish tank has received the pillowcase magnet treatment. In general it is a soothing help for migraines, but sometimes I can’t stand it!

    Daylight seems to counterbalance fluorescent and LED lights for me, so if I can’t escape them, I try to position myself near daylight and arrange myself best I can. None are ideal but I choose the least offensive and deal the best I can.

    Daylight can also be a huge trigger, like the dappling of trees another person mentioned. I can’t win for losing whether sunny or cloudy and raining. Sunglasses, a pair from the Dollar Tree, finally won the search for right tint, darkness, as big as I could find, etc. I take preventative medication before heading out, try to limit my time out to later in the day, figure I will get a headache at the least and get excited if nothing goes awry. I found my migraines went down when I got realistic with myself about the likelihood of one, it’s like the tension of resistance dropped and it has been that tension amping things up.

    This is much longer than I expected, so WOW if you read the whole thing, ha!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @mrs-doyle – I DID read the whole thing and it was wonderful! Thank you for sharing all of these incredibly useful tips! My goodness, you could’ve written an article on the topic yourself. We are so grateful to community members like yourself for taking the time to pass along the resources you have learned and earned over years of navigating migraine. This post is a real gift to others who are newer to the condition, and even for some of us old timers who still stand to learn a thing or three from one another! I’ll be looking into the f.lux program tonight! Thanks again for taking the time to share these great ideas!

  • 1soro31
    2 years ago

    Hi Holly,
    Every type of light impacts me whether I already have a migraine or not. I do a lot of the same things that you do, although I’m unable to wear sunglasses as anything that sits on my trigeminal nerves is a trigger. So I wear an eye patch as my one eye is more sensitive that the other. Ball caps do not provide enough cover for my eyes so I wear a hat that has a deep brim that encircles my entire head. When I’m home, In my bedroom, I’ve put paper black-out shades over the windows (self adhesive; $7-11 at Home Depot) and call the room “my cave.” Unfortunately, I’m unable to drive. I also can’t use the computer. I can use my iphone for about 10 minuates at a time.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi @1soro31 – These are wonderful tips that you shared! Thank you for the blackout self-adhesive shades idea. It took me forever to find a ballcap that didn’t trigger pain and had a wide enough coverage such that i could bend it around and get enough blockage from the light. These things do matter so much. And glad you pointed out the very real truth that lights cause a challenge for many of us regardless of an active attack. Thank you for using some of the limited 10 minutes on your phone to chime in so others can learn from you- and we’re very glad you are a part of our community!

  • pigen51
    2 years ago

    For myself, I don’t have so much a problem with normal lights as I do if they are a pulsing type of light. Such as the kind you might get driving through trees with a bright sunny day, or with a strobe light, or even with a flickering florescent light going bad.
    Of course, intense bright lights, such as the doctors who shine the light into your eyes to check for possible signs of a stroke or brain issue, will trigger even worse pain than I already am in.

    I try to stay indoors with just typical lighting and no outside light coming in, when I have a bad migraine. But since I have chronic migraines, that is a large part of the time.

  • askvarek
    1 year ago

    I live in Tucson, one of the sunniest places in the US, so definitely a good pair of sunglasses that aren’t tight around my ears is a must everyday! I’m a teacher in a room with shiny whiteboards, white floors, white tables., and white walls, with NO natural light and too many fluorescent bulbs. So, I turn on 1/3 of the overhead lights (the ones far away from my desk and the board) and brought in some lamps of my own to make the light much softer. The students like it too. I also covered one wall with some dark fabric and put posters up to take away from the bright whiteness everywhere. This last tip may seem obvious, but when I pack a soft black T-shirt with me in my bag so if a bad migraine hits and I need to lay down, I can cover up my eyes completely without having light come through or having the right tension of an eye mask making the pain worse. When I go to my “bat cave” at home, I keep the T-shirt on my face too. I have 2 young kids so even if they burst into my bedroom (and sometimes turn on the lights, eek!) my eyes won’t be affected by any flicker or height burst of light. Like most of you, I keep my house pretty dark… Just enough light to function and not strain my eyes, even if I’m having a migraine free day. Lastly, I know that I cannot look at a screen, (TV, computer, phone) in a dark room. I MUST have an additional low-light source in that room so there isn’t such a sharp contrast between light and dark. That’s why I only go to a movie theater maybe once every other year, haha. I equate movies with migraines….so, I only risk it for the movie I HAVE to see in the theatre, like Star Wars ☺

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @askvarek – Thanks so much for sharing these terrific ideas. I’m going to have to follow suit on bringing a soft black t-shirt along with me (my purse just keeps getting bigger and bigger with all I carry with me for migraine! https://migraine.com/video/whats-purse-challenge/). Your comment about movie theaters made me think of the last few times I’ve gone during which I’ve struggled with the incredibly bright (for me) exit sign. In the pitch black room, the glaring sign makes it very hard for me to enjoy the movie. I’ve taken to putting on my ball cap and angling it to block as much of the exit light as i can, but inevitably it ends up blocking half of the screen too!

    Thinking of you in your all-white room at work! Sounds like you’ve taken the edge off in a way that everyone appreciates.

    So glad you’re a part of our community- thanks again for sharing!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    @pigen51– So sorry to hear about your wife’s diagnosis. Strange how life works in that you are now able to be home with her to provide support. I realize the reason you are home is that you are in pain a majority of the time, but still, you are there. I speak from experience as I’m also on disability and though I’m in pain more than not, my being home allowed me to support my son through a number of surgeries rather than trying to juggle full time work which would’ve led to my crashing in pain and ending up in the hospital alongside him, unable to help. I hope your nose is on the mend and I agree, having a loving partner can make all the difference! So glad you have that in your life!

  • pigen51
    2 years ago

    Thank You, Holly, for the kind thoughts. My wife is doing very well, as was expected from the cancer specialists outlook when first discussed. She has had setbacks, it seems, such as a port that had to be replace, and that got a staph infection the second time that was mersa, and so she was in the hospital a week, and then on IV antibiotics at home for two weeks, with me playing nurse. So again, it was good that I was able to be here for her. But everything is still on track, and she is cancer free, with radiation the only other main treatment left to go. She still will be getting some other meds as they continue to learn about cancer and how hormones affect things, and so use that as a way of ensuring that she remains cancer free.

    She had gotten dizzy and fell, and broke her back, which is why she was in a wheel chair, and I was helping her into the car, and got my feet tangled up in the chair and some ice here in Michigan in our April winter/spring surprise. So I ended up grabbing the chair, and it tipped sideways and I followed it over onto the ground. Luckily, no concussions, I have had so many in my life that I don’t need another. That is part of my migraine story, with a family history of migraines and 5 or 6 concussions in high school football, plus a couple since then.

    But even with things that might seem to be tough, I married someone that I love still. I don’t believe in having a soul mate, I believe in working to become soul mates. And that we have done. When we started dating, I was working the same place she did, she was the traffic coordinator, and I was the shipping dock worker. Plus I also had a band that I played in nights and weekends. So the only time we could see each other was Tuesday nights. I played saxophone in a rock and roll band back then. But we ended up getting married, I had 3 kids from a first marriage that she fell in love with too. And we adopted 2 girls of our own, sisters, and that worked out great. Not that life has ever been a piece of cake, it has been just like anyone else, hard at times, and at times fantastic. But I was able to let her quit work and raise our kids full time, and that was a blessing for all of us.

    I will stop for now, but I hope that anyone reading this understands that even if your life is difficult, and you suffer pain, and sickness, sometimes even standing in food truck lines, as we have done a time or two, those are things that are external. The kind of things that have real meaning in life are within. We share faith in God, and each other, and that sustains us, through hard times, and also during times when things are going well.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi @pigen51 – So great to hear from you. Your description of sunlight flashing through trees while driving almost triggered a migraine for me just thinking about it! Am I alone in finding that overcast days are sometimes more bright and difficult to handle due to the glare than sunny ones? We sound quite similar in spending a majority of time in a controlled environment with soft lighting, curtains pulled. I have a feeling we are not the only ones… Thanks for chiming in!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Dear @pigen51 – thank you for taking the time to share you wonderful story with us. It is a moving and unique tale of love and life interwoven with the realities of migraine. I wonder if you would be interested in sharing it on our stories page? Doing so would mean it would reach a larger audience. https://migraine.com/stories/. Please let me know if you have any questions and thanks again for telling us your story- it gives us all a way to learn from and connect to one another.

  • pigen51
    2 years ago

    Of course, as a migraine sufferer, the biggest thing is trying to maintain everything we can the same, whether it is the time of bed, or the amount of caffeine, or whatever. But we know that trying to maintain control is next to impossible. But that doesn’t mean that we stop trying. I am on disability for migraines, thank God, as my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last October. We have been married for 25 years last September. So I am able to help her the way that she helps me. We have leaned on each other for our entire marriage, and this is just one more thing that we get through together. I actually took her to an appointment yesterday, and fell face first onto the pavement. My nose is now my biggest feature! That is right, ouch. But I had a migraine anyway, so what the heck, why not add one more thing to it. Life is still a joy, because I am crazy about my wife, and God takes care of the two of us.

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