Those Frustrating Migraine Symptoms - Photophobia

Patient Expert

With Migraine disease, there are many possible symptoms, including photophobia. Photophobia is increased, often painful, sensitivity to light.

Photophobia often sends us seeking a dark room or has us wearing sunglasses. It can begin as early as the _prodrome _ phase of a Migraine attack (see Anatomy of a Migraine) and continue through the rest of the attack.

Just to be contrary and confuse us, many Migraineurs find ourselves experiencing photophobia interictally (between Migraine attacks.) Researchers ate Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have discovered why light makes Migraine pain worse. It has to do with how visual and pain pathways converge in the brain. Lead researcher Dr. Rami Burstein commented:

"We had no clue in the world where in the world light and pain talk to each other in the brain. They have completely different pathways in the brain... We identified a new pathway in the brain that originates in the eye and goes to the brain areas where neurons are found that are active during migraine attacks. The light can increase the electrical activity in neurons that are active to begin with."3

I found this fascinating. To read more about this research, check out _Why Light Worsens Migraine Pain _.


1 Silberstein, Stephen D.; Lipton, Richard B.; Goadsby, Peter J.; Smith, Robert. T. Headache in Primary Care. Oxford. Isis Medical Media Ltd. 1999.

2 Noseda, Rodrigo; Kainz, Vanessa; Jakubowski, Moshe; Gooley, Joshua J.; Saper, Clifford B.; Digre, Kathleen; Burstein, Rami. "A neural mechanism for exacerbation of headaches by light." Nature Neuroscience. Advance Online Publication; January 10, 2010.

3 Gardner, Amanda. "Why Light Hurts During Migraine." HealthDay News. January 10, 2010.

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