Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Tools for Dealing with Light Sensitivity

Hi everyone! Today I am going to talk about how I deal with light sensitivity. Light is one of my strongest migraine triggers and photophobia is a common symptom of mine. Over the years I’ve developed some tools and tricks and I thought I’d share:

  1. Indoor TheraSpecs glasses help me with computers and florescent lighting.
  2. Outdoor TheraSpecs glasses help me with bright sunlight.
  3. My regular glasses are transitions lenses that get dark outside in case I am caught without my TheraSpecs.
  4. The free program called f.lux helps me use a computer. You can download it here.
  5. I prefer warm LED lights.

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

  • jasonpav32
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing Lisa. I have issues with fluorescent lights and work under them all day long. I tried TheraSpecs and Axon Optics along with others. TheraSpecs didn’t work as well for me as just a cheap pair of rose colored tinted glasses.

  • dellface
    2 years ago

    So glad to see this about TheraSpecs. I recently ordered the over-the-glasses pair and found that they help me a lot at work when the lights start to get to me. Next time I get sunglasses I will probably get TheraSpecs as well. Thank you for sharing.

  • James Weil
    2 years ago

    The design of the LED itself does not create flicker. What causes flicker in an LED is how it how its power supply or controller is designed. Cheap power supplies, often part of the ‘bulb’ itself cause flicker as the output current to the LED oscillates with cheap power supplies. LED’s elements are supposed to run on DC current, not AC (out of the wall). So if the power supply does a poor job of conversion then the LED element gets oscillating DC. That is what causes the flicker of an LED, not the LED element itself.

    Another source of LED flicker is a dimmer control not designed properly to feed LED lighting. This is ofter an issue with older dimmer controls. A dimmer switch designed to dim LED’s will not create flicker. Alternately substituting a dimmer switch for a simple on/off switch will solve the issue.

    The bottom line here is that properly designed LED fixtures, switches, and ‘bulbs’ will not flicker.

    So do the research for LED fixtures, dimmers, and ‘bulb’ brands that do not flicker and make sure you can return the device if it does. Such devices are generally more expensive as they are made with more expensive parts.

    I recently replaced both the florescent fixture and bulbs in my kitchen with a properly designed LED fixture and tubes. The flicker I used to get with florescent is gone along with its migraine trigger. Power consumption is also reduced which means lower electric bills and the tubes will outlast me – i.e. no bulb replacement. Some of the newer fixtures do not even have replaceable bulbs as the LED’s outlast the fixture.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks James for sharing the science. I had heard about the dimmers causing flicker, and I personally don’t use a dimmer for that reason. I’m glad to hear you were able to get rid of one of your migraine triggers!
    -Lisa

  • jasonpav32
    2 years ago

    looking4OPH, I suggest looking into the Irlen Syndrome (http://www.irlensyndrome.org/) which is a different approach. Unfortunately migraine.com will not allow me to share any of the extra pairs that I have because I was sent an email saying, “Per our community rules, we cannot share posts that are either are a direct or indirect solicitation.”

  • Marina
    2 years ago

    Dear Lisa,

    I am not alone with the problems of LED’s. I don’t think there has been enough research in how damaging the LED’s can be. They are a relatively new phenomena for the world since they have basically banned incandescent lighting and have become basically the only choice for the public to purchase. LED’s are extraordinarily bright in many pubic places. Plus high powered LED lights are known to cause health risks. Remember once they said cigarette smoking was just fine for a person. We are all guinea pigs with these LED’s. All I know is that they cause migraines for me and apparently are problematic for others as I found our with these comments on a site that dealt with LED’s:

    SyrenaAuthor
    I have electric hyper-sensitivity, but am not sure that it is the EMF’s that are affecting me when I am in the lighting. I think it is the lighting, itself. The parking garage for our local grocery store has LED lighting. In the daylight, I feel great, until I drive into the garage. The second my eyes are in the garage, I get a light-headed feeling and nausea comes on. My understanding of my condition is that it is a hyper-vigilant limbic brain, and anything that over-stimulates can trigger the stress response from the limbic brain. LED light strobes. The strobing can’t be seen with the naked eye, but I bet that the brain sees it. So, it is over-stimulating. I am looking for information as to whether or not LED televisions are the same in the strobing effect as a light bulb would be. I cannot use LED light bulbs without feeling quite ill. My time in public stores, these days, has to be very short. If I can calm my limbic brain, maybe someday I’ll be able to tolerate the LED lights. Until then, I have to pace myself, and be careful. There are ways to calm the brain, but with life-long PTSD, the brain is stuck in hyper-vigilant mode, and doesn’t go back to normal functioning easily. I’m working on it!
    May 18, 2015Hi Syrena,

    You certainly are on the right track with the LED triggers. LED are still considered digital because they use a series of 1 and 0 to represent on/off. Incandescent lighting use a frequency wave to for the on/off state so the brain understands or recognizes a waveform frequency pattern because that represents what all lifeforms have been accustomed to since the beginning of time. The human system has experienced digital formats to represent light for only a short time period since its inception and wide use (2006) and therefore many people and other lifeforms can be hyper-sensitive to its use. One possible treatment you might consider is EEG neurofeedback. This treatment can help the brain and central nerve system become less sensitive and less hyper when exposed to this type of lighting. EEG Neurofeedback is also used for PTSD especially for military personnel. ISNR and eegspectrum are two independent professional organizations that can help you learn more about this very helpful treatment. I wish you well and please keep me posted.
    Ed
    May 19, 2015

    mark44004
    I HAVE NEVER HAD MIGRAINES IN MY LIFE AND I’M 52 YEARS OLD. BUT RECENTLY I WAS IN A WALMART AROUND CHRISTMAS AND ALL OF A SUDDEN IT FELT LIKE THE LIGHTS WERE FLASHING, IT SEEM EXCEEDINGLY BRIGHT, AND MY EYES EXPERIENCES WAVES OF MOVEMENT LIKE FLOATERS AND I COULD NOT SEE ANYTHING BUT THE CENTER OF WHATEVER I WAS LOOKING AT. i AM CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING THE SAME THING RIGHT NOW AT WORK. tHEY’VE CHANGED THE LIGHTING TO LED IN OUR WAREHOUSE AND NOW THIS IS HAPPENING. TODAY ONLY THOUGH. THE LIGHTS HAVE BEEN INSTALLED A COUPLE WEEKS NOW. i KNOW AT SOME POINT THERE WILL BE A DEFINATIVE STUDY ON THIS MATTER AND IT WILL BE CONNECTED.
    Jan 09, 2015

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Marina,
    I’m sorry you have so much trouble with LED lights. Yes, some of them are too bright in public spaces–that’s why I like having my glasses which seem to help me personally. We are all different and different things can affect us, it can be so hard with something like lighting. I often am amazed by people who work in bright florescent-lit grocery stores or pharmacies with seemingly little ill effect.
    Lisa

  • Marina
    2 years ago

    Dear Lisa,
    I am surprised that you can tolerate LED lights. I can not tolerate them at all and they give me migraines. After I stocked up on my trusty incandescent light bulbs by Chromalux, which mimic sunlight, I tried the ‘newer’ type of incandescent type of light bulbs that they produced to take their place because they no longer manufactured the incandescent light bulb because of stupid government laws. I tried it and tried it and tried it until I finally got sick and tired of getting a headache after being under its glow after only 10 minutes. This was a brand new expensive Chromalux bulb. Then I tried another one and I still got headaches. I must also include this article from the Dutch which verify problems with some LED lighting:

    “LED lighting causes headaches in Dutch workers
    Posted on November 6, 2009 by healthrisks
    (translation of an article that appeared in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/5195982/__Hoofdpijn_van_led-verlichting__.html)

    The 350 as environmentally friendly promoted LED lights installed in the Dutch town hall of Hoogeveen appear to cause headaches in the employees.

    Town hall of Hoogeveen

    The lamps also produce vibrations on computer screens. “If your hand moves along a lamp, a stroboscope effect occurs in the office. Sometimes it seems like a disco in here” said town spokesman Hans Vonk.

    Just this week the Dutch Environment Minister Cramer started a public campaign to persuade citizens to use energy saving lamps or LEDs. However, installation expert Nico Koreman warned for the risk of strain on the existing electricity network. The cause lies in certain electronics for the new lighting, which can manipulate power frequencies. “With very unpleasant effects such as by burning and melting equipment and flickering lights”, warns Koreman. “The frequencies are so high that you can’t detect them using standard measuring equipment.”

    One solution is to avoid cheap electronics from the Far East, says Koreman. “And do not buy the cheapest light bulbs, but stuff from regular brands.” The town of Hoogeveen will replace all the lights with a newer generation of LED lamps, which have already been tried in three rooms. “These new lights do not seem to cause health problems,” said Vonk.”

    I realize that an LED does not have a flicker, like the fluorescent light bulb, but the light emitting diodes apparently cause problems that result in headaches for myself. Plus over time, illuminating LEDs with a poor design may begin flickering, changing color, becoming dim and providing uneven light. All lights except natural light and incandescent light bulbs cause migraines for my light-colored green eyes. Perhaps you have brown eyes which might tolerate the LED’s better.

    My solutions at work for the lighting is that I have the overhead lights dismantled and wear sunglasses when I have a migraine or have to sit or walk where there are fluorescent light bulbs. I also avoid flashing emergency vehicles since the strobe-like effect will trigger a migraine. I shield my eyes from any blinking light. The world has become very migraine-sufferer unfriendly. Years ago the police cars and bicycles did not have those annoying fast flashing lights. It has become quite horrible for a migraineur. As to those LED’s, I was hoping they would work for me, but no thank you. I don’t want a headache.

  • looking4OPH
    2 years ago

    I’m curious about “another option”. I do get light sensitivity during my migraines and have been considering the glasses options to try and manage. I’ve looked at TheraSpecs and Axon Optics, but haven’t pulled the trigger. I’m always up for something new to try in another direction. What else is there?

  • Douglas
    2 years ago

    Bouncing rather than ‘boung’

  • Douglas
    2 years ago

    My TheraSpecs (indoor and outdoor) have been a phenomenal experience. I keep an indoor pair at work to help mitigate the aggravation caused by the fluorescent lights, I have far fewer episodes that are triggered on the drive home than I did before. I will not leave the house without my outdoor glasses, bright sunlight and the boung lights from cars will set me off.

  • Poll