Bright outdoor light migraine trigger. Scared to go outside?

Health Professional

Full Question:

I'm 45yrs old. My first migraine was at the age of 32, it was a horrific and scary experience. The first thing my doctor did was, taking me off of B-control pills which helped for few years. Now, just last week, a beautiful day in Southern CA, I was sitting in my backyard (bright beautiful, sunny day), when I went back in the house, it took few seconds for me to realize that the vision problem I was experiencing was not the typical adjusting to the light inside the house but was the start of a migraine that lasted 4hrs. The pain I get is debilitating and is throbbing pain all over my head. Nothing seems to help. This takes a toll on my body for 2-3 days after. I'm desperate for advise because I'm now scared to go outside. My migraines are so random, I tried to pint point any triggers, but it is not one thing alone and now its the bright outdoor light. Please help. Thank you, Sue.


Dear Sue;

Migraine triggers can change over time, and unfortunately, bright outdoor light is a trigger for some people. Some Migraineurs find that with good sunglasses and a sun visor or billed cap, they can avoid Migraines triggered by bright outdoor light. For some, heat is the trigger, not the sunlight.

You said nothing seems to help, but you didn't say what you've tried. There are many good options for treating a Migraine. The most commonly used prescription medications are the triptans (Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Amerge, Relpax, Axert, and Frova -- as well as Treximet, which is a combination of Imitrex and Naproxen Sodium). These are Migraine abortive medications that work in the brain to stop the Migraine and its symptoms. Other abortive medications are the ergotamines (DHE-45 and Migranal), and Epidrin (same as Midrin, which is now discontinued).

Your best bet is to make an appointment with your doctor and discuss this new trigger and your options. The obvious solution is to avoid being in bright outdoor light unless sunglasses and / or a visor keep the light from being a trigger for you. Of course, not being outdoors in sunny weather isn't an option most people like, but if it turns out that it's a trigger for you, you have the option of avoiding it.

Good luck,
John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert

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