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Tinted glasses to prevent migraine

May 2011

Tinted glasses to prevent migraine

Precision-tinted glasses seem to help prevent migraines in people whose pain is triggered by certain visual patterns. Precision-tinted lenses have been used since the 1990s in Britain to help people who are poor readers, a condition which can have symptoms similar to those of dyslexia.

It has been noted that certain striped patterns can cause migraines in people with aura and even seizures in patients who have epilepsy that involves light sensitivity.

Researchers studied 11 people in America with migraines and 11 people without migraine using a functional MRI machine, which captures brain activity in real time. They wanted to see if tinted glasses could normalise brain activity in the people who get the pounding headaches. All participants were asked to look at stressful striped patterns (high-contrast stripes a certain distance apart) through three different pairs of glasses, one of which was precision-tinted. The tinted glasses were individualised for each patient so they would experience the most comfort and least distortion of the pattern.

Nearly half the people with migraines, accompanied by visual aura such as flashes of light, benefitted. The researchers noted a normalisation of brain activity in those with migraine wearing the tinted glasses while they were looking at the different patterns. The specific brain activity known as hyperactivation is present when migraines are occurring. Participants with a history of migraines also reported less discomfort (by about 70 percent compared with 40 percent for the other lenses) when looking at the patterns through tinted glasses.

The glasses used were regular glasses with precision tints and can be used as often or as little as the person wants. Though this was an interesting study, more data is needed before jumping to conclusions.

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