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Can Tinted Glasses Help Migraine?

Updated on September 12, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H.

As someone living with migraine headaches, you have likely searched for lifestyle modifications that can reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. One area that some MyMigraineTeam members have explored involves tinted glasses 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 migraine symptoms.

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 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. 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?

According to some MyMigraineTeam members, tinted glasses have proved effective in reducing symptoms and preventing migraine attacks. “I got a pair that are photochromic, too. I love them! They definitely take the edge off,” wrote one member.

Not everyone with migraine finds success with tinted 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-colored glasses, 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 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 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, 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 you have. 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 ultraviolet 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 78,000 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 migraine? Have they helped your symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. 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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