Can Tinted Glasses Help Prevent or Ease Migraine? Rose-Tinted and More | MyMigraineTeam

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Can Tinted Glasses Help Prevent or Ease Migraine? Rose-Tinted and More

Updated on March 12, 2024

As someone living with chronic migraine headaches, you have likely searched for lifestyle modifications that can reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Some MyMigraineTeam members have explored using tinted eyeglasses to reduce photophobia (when bright light hurts your eyes) — a common migraine symptom.

In this article, we’ll discuss how wearing different kinds of tinted migraine glasses could affect your chronic migraine symptoms.

Use of Tinted Glasses for Migraine

People living with migraine may consider using tinted glasses to combat photosensitivity and remove migraine triggers. Many MyMigraineTeam members have tried tinted glasses to prevent their chronic migraine symptoms:

  • “Tomorrow, I am going to buy tinted safety glasses to see if that at least helps prevent migraines at work a little bit in the future.”
  • “Today, I have finally collected my prescribed tinted lenses which are supposed to help in the relief of visual stress symptoms that can occur in photosensitive migraines.”
  • “I bought some huge, ugly orange-tinted glasses that help — they’re supposed to be for fishing to cut glare. At least I can see through them in the house; better than sunglasses.”

Many companies sell tinted glasses that can be purchased without a prescription. These glasses come in a variety of shapes, shades, and colors, sometimes sold as “red-tinted glasses for migraines” or “indoor sunglasses for migraines,” Beware of companies that use the words “treat” and “cure” — tinted glasses are not recommended or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for migraine symptoms and are not considered a treatment. When in doubt, talk to your doctor before considering this purchase.

Do They Really Work?

For some MyMigraineTeam members with chronic migraine, tinted glasses have proved effective in reducing symptoms and preventing migraine attacks. One member shared that they acquired a pair of photochromic glasses, which have lenses that darken when exposed to light. “I love them! They definitely take the edge off,” they wrote.

Not everyone with chronic migraine finds success with a tinted pair of glasses, and some say it helps specific symptoms, but not all of them. “I can’t say yet they have reduced my migraines, but the indoor ones definitely help reduce eye fatigue if you are on a computer for long periods of time and work in an environment where there is nothing but fluorescent lights (which I do),” one member wrote.

Another said, “The glasses helped relax my eyes and face muscles, too.”

Research on this topic is limited but appears to be promising. The first randomized controlled trial to examine this phenomenon in children with migraine took place in 1991 and evaluated the effect of rose-tinted (FL-41) glasses on 20 children with migraine. Those wearing rose-tinted glasses for migraine, rather than blue-tinted glasses, had a major decrease in their migraine symptoms that continued over a long time.

Another small, randomized controlled study from 2002 tried to copy the earlier study, but with adults. The results showed that study participants who had worn glasses with the optimal tint to reduce eye strain had a slightly lower frequency of headaches compared to the control tint (a slightly different lens color). However, the sample size was too small, and the difference was too insignificant to determine the cause.

Finally, another small trial in 2016 showed that both the control glasses and the optimally tinted lenses reduced the frequency and intensity of headaches — revealing that the shade of the lens was not as important as previously thought.

Outside of these studies, no large randomized trials have attempted to study this phenomenon. For conditions other than migraine, such as benign essential blepharospasm — a disorder that causes eyelid twitches — FL-41 lenses have been shown to improve blink frequency, photosensitivity, and quality of life in randomized trials.

Types of Tinting

Tinted glasses filter out specific wavelengths of light. For some people with migraine, blue light coming from computer screens may be a symptom trigger. For others, ultraviolet (UV) lights from the sun and other bright lights may cause flares. This is why tinted glasses vary so much in color and darkness — so that people with different light sensitivities may be able to benefit from them. This also means that trial and error may be involved in finding the glasses that work for your photophobia.

According to current recommendations, the rose-colored FL-41 tint has been the most tested and widely accepted shade of glasses for its ability to filter blue light without causing extreme darkness. Other shades, such as blue and green, do not filter out the light that most often triggers those with migraine. Many brown and orange glasses are too dark to use indoors.

One MyMigraineTeam member advised, “Just be careful you get glasses that have the proper tinting that filters out all blue wavelengths and only certain of the green wavelengths. It is very scientific, and for what we’re going through, we should get the right lenses.”

How To Find Tinted Glasses

Before buying tinted glasses, make sure to figure out your optimal tint based on what type of light sensitivity triggers your chronic migraine episodes. Outside of a medical setting, the best way to do this is to keep a log of when your migraine attacks occur and what kind of light is present when your symptoms occur. If you are often triggered by sunlight, you might search for tinted glasses that filter out UV radiation. If computer screens or fluorescent lights bother you, you may want to search for a tint that is designed to filter those colors. Remember that warm colors (like red lenses) filter out cool colors (like blue and green light) and vice versa.

With the advice of your neurologist or ophthalmologist, compare brands and products to decide which glasses are best for you. Look for companies that let you test their product and return it if it is not working for your migraine symptoms. Your glasses may not work right away, but with regular indoor and outdoor use, you may begin to see an impact over time.

Talk to Your Doctor

Although tinted eyewear is often marketed toward those living with chronic migraine, it is essential to note that the effectiveness of this therapy has still not been thoroughly studied in controlled environments. Talk to your health care provider before purchasing a pair of tinted glasses to evaluate what kind is best for you. Ask about getting prescription lenses to reduce the out-of-pocket cost. If effective for you, tinted glasses can be a new tool in your migraine relief repertoire.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On MyMigraineTeam, the social network for people with migraine and their loved ones, more than 81,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who can relate to their migraine experiences.

Have you tried tinted glasses while living with chronic migraine? Have they helped your symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Updated on March 12, 2024
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    Marie Dorsey, Pharm.D., BCPS, AAHIVP is currently a clinical pharmacist at Bridgewell Medical, specializing in medication therapy management and holds a certification as an HIV pharmacist through the American Academy of HIV Medicine. Learn more about her here.
    Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H. is a medical student at George Washington University and a former Fulbright research scholar in Durban, South Africa. Learn more about her here.

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