Why Does Blue Light Cause Migraines
Scientists became interested in whether blue light can cause migraines when they found out that even blind people suffer from photophobia and light-induced migraine attacks. Since blind people dont have normally functioning rod and cone cells in their eyes, why does light affect them?Quick refresher: Cone cells detect colours and help us see during the day, while rod cells aid in night vision. They are both present in the retina of the eye.
If these cells arent active in the people who cant see, how is there still a functional connection between their eyes and their brain?
In 2002, researchers discovered a third kind of eye cell, in mice. intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells have nothing to do with vision. Instead, they sense blue light and relate changes in blue light in the surroundings, to the brain.
IpRGCs create their own light-sensitive protein called melanopsin, which is more sensitive to blue light than retinal rods and cones. Rather than controlling vision and enabling us to see colour, ipRGCs organize involuntary functions like circadian rhythms and the pupillary light reflex . These cells sense blue light in the surroundings and transmit signals to the brain. The brain responds by promoting wakefulness and releasing hormones such as cortisol which are responsible for alertness.
Since most migraine sufferers are troubled by blue light, ipRGCs are a prime suspect in the development of photophobia and migraines.
Giving The ‘green Light’ To Migraine Relief
Experimental light therapy finds it can ease sensitivity, pain for some patients
TUESDAY, May 17, 2016 — A new study sheds light — literally — on a potential means of easing migraine pain.
Researchers in Boston exposed 69 migraine patients to different colors of light. They found that while blue light exacerbated headache pain, a narrow spectrum of low-intensity green light significantly reduced light sensitivity.
In some cases, this green light also reduced migraine pain by about 20 percent, the researchers found.
They noted that migraine headache affects nearly 15 percent of people worldwide, and a frequent symptom of migraine is light sensitivity, also known as photophobia.
“Although photophobia is not usually as incapacitating as headache pain itself, the inability to endure light can be disabling,” study author Rami Burstein, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a medical center news release.
“More than 80 percent of migraine attacks are associated with and exacerbated by light sensitivity, leading many migraine sufferers to seek the comfort of darkness and isolate themselves from work, family and everyday activities,” he added. Burstein directs the medical center’s Comprehensive Headache Center.
Two experts said the treatment may have merit.
He pointed out that “light therapy has been used successfully in other conditions such as certain dermatologic issues and seasonal affective disorder .”
Eye Strain Can Come From A Variety Of Places
If you went out and bought a pair of blue light blocking glasses, only to notice little to no difference, you’re not the only one. The Atlantic published an article detailing the futility of these glasses. Indeed, doctors have found little relationship between blue light and eye strain rather, eye strain can come from many sources, especially when you’re looking at the same thing all day long. “Eye strain is about the disparity between the things you want to look at and the natural focusing of your eyes, and how long you do it,” Adam Gordon, a clinical associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, explains.
Essentially, you can experience this type of strain after looking at anything from an extended period of time. So, wearing glasses to protect from this type of light may just be adding a layer of plastic between you and the screen after all. And, that layer may make your headache from eye strain feel worse.
Plus, your eyes also absorb tons of blue light from being outside. “There are studies that have shown that sunlight, just standing outdoors in the daytime, is like 200 times more intense an exposure to blue light than any screen for eight or 10 hours a day,” Gordon explains. Blue light may not be the headache culprit after all.
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What You Should Know About Harmful Blue Light
The biggest source of blue light in our lives is actually the sun. But the long-term effects of exposure to artificial sources of blue light is where most of the concern about blue light comes from, especially since these light sources tend to be excessive and closer to the eye.
Artificial sources of blue light include:
- Fluorescent lighting
- Compact fluorescent light bulbs
- Flat screen LED TVs
- Smartphones and tablets
- Computer monitors
Unfortunately, the human eye isnt good at blocking blue light on its own. Because of this, nearly all of the visible blue light passes through your cornea, reaching the retina. Over time, continued exposure to blue light could lead to damage to the retinal cells, and may be related to conditions like age-related macular degeneration, eye cancers, and cataracts. It is also well known that blue light exposure too close to bedtime can have a detrimental effect on sleep because of disruptions in your bodys melatonin production.
According to the Vision Council, about 80 percent of American adults report using digital devices for more than two hours per day with nearly 67 percent using two or more devices simultaneously, and 59 percent report experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain. Those symptoms may include:
- Dry eyes
- Blurred vision
- Neck and shoulder pain
If youre already prone to migraines, this means blue light exposure could be a migraine trigger for you.
Visual Evoked Potential Recording
Visual evoked potentials were recorded in 46/69 participants. Of these, only 28 yielded waveforms with clearly identifiable N1, P1, N2 and P2 deflections. As recommended by the International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision guideline for visual evoked potential standard , we elicited full field light flashes using the ColorDome system. Recordings were made using gold-disc surface electrodes. The active electrode was placed on the scalp over the visual cortex the reference electrode was placed over the forehead the ground electrode was placed on the scalp over the vertex . To establish colour-specific visual evoked potentials, patients were placed in a dimly illuminated room , and presented with five sets of photic stimuli in the following order: white, blue, green, yellow and red. Each set of photic stimuli consisted of 64 flashes of light delivered at 1.1 Hz , 3.0 cd·s·m2, 4 ms . Analysis time was set at 300 ms. Because peaks of N2 and P2 waves are the most robust components of flash visual evoked potentials , comparisons between visual evoked potential responses to white, blue, green, amber and red were based on their amplitudes and time to peak.
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Wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses At Night
Migraines have been linked to a lack of sleep and stress. So using techniques to lower stress and improve sleep quality are going to help eliminate migraines. Evening exposure to blue and green light can send an erroneous rise and shine message to the brain, and interrupt the sleep-wake cycle. Blue Light Glasses are useful at night time when exposed to artificial light sources. Ensure you use a pair of verified and tested glasses that block 100% of blue and green light. These glasses provide the most optimal blue light protection available to maximize sleep quality.
Take A Break In Complete Darkness
Relaxing in a dark room remains one of the most common self-care practices in people with migraine. This gives rest to eyes and can even reduce the intensity of the migraine attack. Normally during the day it can be difficult to create complete darkness is a room, light will get through gaps in the curtains and through windows. Using our Delta Sleep Mask fixes this problem, it completely eliminates 100% light entering your eyes, this creates the “pure darkness” for your brain. This strategy of a pure darkness break has been proven to significantly reduce the intensity and length of migraine attacks.
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Blue Light May Damage Your Eyes
This remains a controversial finding, but there is some evidence that the ultraviolet UVA light can damage the retina of your eyes.9-10 The absorption of UVA light by the eye can lead to the destruction of specific membranes, and may also accelerate the development of cataracts and macular degeneration. However, it is important to note that these issues often occur as a result of longer duration of exposure.11
Migraines And Headaches Caused By Blue Light
Blue light is visible light with a high energy level that can harm your eyes and overall health. Staring at screens can cause our eyes to work overtime, putting them under stress and strain.
This can result in digital eye strain , which can cause discomfort in the eyes, vision issues, and headaches. When primarily related to screen-time blue light problems, DES is sometimes referred to as computer vision syndrome. Because light and eye strain together are common migraine triggers, blue light can be challenging for migraine sufferers.
Participants were exposed to several blue, white, green, red, and amber light levels in a brief study. The study discovered that blue light had the most significant detrimental effect on migraine sufferers.
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Is It A Symptom Of Migraine Headaches Or A Cause
According to the American Migraine Foundation, photophobia is considered one of the most common symptoms of a migraine headache. Doctors can use photosensitivity as part of the diagnosis of a migraine headache, even without the presence of pain.
People with photosensitivity often report issues with sensitivity to artificial and natural lights before, during, or after a headache.
For some, light can act as a trigger. It can also make their migraine headache worse. As a result, people with both migraine headaches and photophobia may find relief in a dimly lit room during a migraine attack.
Why Light Triggers Migraines And How To Combat It
If you experience light sensitivity that can trigger migraine attacks, then a little science can go a long way to help you understand and manage light-triggered headaches.
All light sources share one thing in common, they transmit thefollowing primary colors: red, blue and green, or RGB. As light enters our eye, it is processed by our retina for image recognition. The retina consists of three color sensing receptors called cones that are stimulated by either blue, green or red frequencies.
For the scientist in us, and for discussion purposes, the frequency of visible light is measured between 400 to 700nm with each of the three cones responding to the following frequency ranges:
Different light sources can vary with intensity and frequency of RGB. Blue light is ubiquitous in just about every light source and the main color frequency associated with the onset of headaches. Blue light intensity varies from high to low by a light source, as follows:
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The Difference Between Blue Light Blocking Glasses & Migraine Glasses
Not all blue light is the same. Neither are blue light blocking glasses and migraine glasses.
Blue light blocking glasses are designed to block blue-violet light, and block mostly the violet. Of course, their actual effect on eye strain and other symptoms is unproven, according to the newest research above.
What migraine sufferers need to understand is that wavelengths of light that typically trigger migraines arent violet, but blue and amber. So while blue blocking glasses are supposed to reduce eye strain, they are simply not designed to block the specific types of light actually shown to aggravate and trigger migraine attacks.
If youre already light-sensitive and prone to migraines, Axon Optics migraine glasses are made for you. Theyre precisely engineered and proven effective as a tool against migraines. In fact, many studies have shown our tints effectiveness in blocking the specific blue and amber wavelengths that trigger and aggravate migraines associated with light sensitivity.
Remember Christina and her 12-hour days in front of a computer screen? Well, after trying many filters, Christina tried Axon Optics glasses:
My glasses have been a lifesaver. My eye pressure and strain has completely resolved. Why did I ever wait to make the purchase?
Cory had a similar experience after trying both blue light glasses and Axon Optics migraine glasses.
Why Are Screens Bad For Concussions And Brain Injuries
There is far less clinical evidence available that notes the impact computer screens have on post-concussion syndrome and traumatic brain injury , but patients are vocal about the negative effects that too much screen exposure can have on their symptoms. For example, nearly all of the post-concussion and TBI respondents of our survey acknowledged that digital screens were particularly bothersome. And there are countless anecdotes online that further reinforce the health concern of computer usage after a concussion or brain injury:
In addition, LCD screens were shown to slow the recovery time for post-concussive individuals. Certain treatments that involve computer use may even be rendered less effective in halting headache symptoms due to the mandatory screen exposure.9 As a result, medical professionals often recommend a period of physical and cognitive rest immediately after a concussionthis often involves limiting screen time from electronic devices and computers. And if post-concussion headaches persist, then longer-term solutions must be identified in order to safely work on a computer.
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There Are Benefits To Blue Light Too
With all this negativity surrounding blue light, it may seem odd to learn that there can also be some benefits. For instance, it has been shown to improve alertness, productivity, and even memory.12 It makes sense tooblue light suppresses melatonin which would otherwise facilitate sleepiness, so looking at it during the day would conversely make you feel more awake and attentive. Interestingly, blue light therapy has been used as a non-drug treatment for various conditions, notably concussion.13 However, we have to mention that these are clinical studies whereby the amount of blue wavelengths can be precisely controlled. With the sheer prevalence of artificial light that we encounter as well as the blue light from the sun, it can be much more difficult to regulate our exposure in a more natural setting.
Blue Light And Ocular Migraines:
Retinal migraine is an eye disease that causes vision loss or vision disturbances in one eye, such as lights flashing. These incidents can be scary, but they’re generally harmless and brief, and the vision returns to normal later.
A minor blind spot that impacts the field of vision in one eye is one of the most common ocular migraine symptoms. When the blind spot grows more prominent, it becomes difficult to drive or read comfortably with the impaired eye.
One eye’s entire field of vision can be impaired sometimes. In most cases, the episode is under an hour long.
While the duration of retinal migraines varies, a few people have them every few months.
Retinal migraine is a distinct disorder that can not be associated with headache-type migraine or migraine with aura, both of which impair both eyes’ vision.
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Does Blue Light Affect Migraines
Whilst more in-depth research is required in the field of migraines and blue light, the current research is showing positive results between blocking blue light and decreased symptoms of digital eye strain and migraine symptoms.
UC Davis University notes that because blue light scatters most easily, it can contribute to digital eye strain, and its symptoms such as headaches.
Researchers have found that migraine attacks are particularly more painful for migraine patients with the presence of blue light, in comparison to red light, and that blocking blue light could significantly reduce the experience of light-sensitive symptoms and pain during migraines.
To increase your protection against blue light headaches, combine our Yellow Lens DayMax Computer Glasses with our blue light blocking light bulbs. Our bespoke lightbulbs are specially crafted in different styles and for different situations to offer you all-around protection from those unwanted headaches.
Not only do our blue light blocking light bulbs protect your eyes during the night time, they holistically support your circadian rhythm, and hormones to ensure overall support against migraines.
How Are Migraines And Headaches Different
Migraines are a neurological disorder. A neurological disorder is a disorder that affects the brain, the network of nerves in the body and spinal cord.
If youre having a migraine, your head will typically throb from one side . You may feel nauseous, vomit and become increasingly sensitive to smells, sound, light . Bright lights and screens all emit light in the full spectrum of wavelengths, but are concentrated in the range of 380nm-550nm which includes blue light. This brings into question the relation between blue light and migraines.
In contrast, if you have a headache, youll feel a pressing or tightening situation, usually on both sides of your head. The most common type of headache is a tension headache caused by stress, muscle strain and anxiety. Physical activity wont worsen the pain and you wont be as sensitive to blue light.
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Cause : Blue Wavelengths
Sunlight contains a whole spectrum of light wavelengths, but one of the most powerful ones is blue light. Blue light is intense and very high energy. Aside from the sun, blue light is emitted by devices like smartphones and TVs, along with fluorescent lights.
Its been pretty well documented that blue light is one of the wavelengths that causes pain for migraineurs. So if you seem to get headaches from sunlight, it could be an effect of the blue light combined with the brightness of the sun.
Even for people who arent prone to migraines, blue light can be irritating, causing eye strain, headaches, eye dryness, or sleep interruptions. This is why its important to take frequent breaks from your computer.