Those of us with migraine often have photophobia, even between migraine attacks. This horrid light sensitivity can be aggravated by pretty much any form of light - sunlight, fluorescent lights, light from computer monitors and mobile devices, and more. What’s more, it’s exceedingly difficult to avoid light unless we give up, go to bed, and pull the covers over our heads.
Recently, I’ve seen many migraineurs say they’re wearing dark sunglasses - indoors and out - which can create additional problems. Sunglasses are just what they sound like - glasses that work to protect our eyes from the sun. To understand why wearing them indoors can create problems, we need to consider how the eye responds to light. The pupil of the eye responds to light, constricting relative to the brightness of the eye, to keep light out. When there’s less light, the pupil relaxes, and opens.
Consider this scenario: You’re in your home with the blinds drawn to keep out as much light as possible - a very common scenario for someone with migraine. You’re experiencing photophobia, so you put on your sunglasses and wear them around the house. Behind those sunglasses your pupils are open wide. When you step outside into the sun with those wide open pupils, your eyes are going to be impacted by the sun more than they should be until your pupils can respond. According to my ophthalmologist, this is one strong reason why sunglasses should not be worn indoors. He told me there’s been an increase in cases of macular degeneration, in large part due to people being in the sun without eye protection.
Being practical, there are going to be times when we’re in a store or someplace where the light really hurts, and we’re going to reach for our sunglasses. The point is that we shouldn’t be doing this for hours at a time or every day. There are other methods to consider. We can try a baseball cap or sun visor, which can help with light from above. There are also FL-41 tinted glasses made to help with migraine light sensitivity, and they’re available for indoor use or outdoor. I took two pairs of these glasses, from different manufacturers, to my ophthalmologist for his opinion. After carefully examining the lenses, his opinion was that the pair made by AxonOptics was excellent. You can read more about these glasses in Migraine Glasses from AxonOptics - A Review.
Our migraines give us enough issues for concern. Eye safety doesn’t have to be yet another. If you find yourself wearing sunglasses indoors, talk with your doctor. Something that I’ve found is that using Botox for migraine prevention has helped immensely with light sensitivity, both during a migraine and between migraines. You can read more about this in Migraine Treatments and Enjoying the Sunshine.
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Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.