If you have never experienced a migraine, you can consider yourself fortunate. A migraine is much more than just a headache, and the symptoms that accompany it can disable a sufferer. Light has long been associated with migraines, and following are some of the reasons for that connection.

What Is A Migraine?

A migraine is a complex occurrence that starts with the irritation of the tissues around the brain and central nervous system. These tissues, or meninges, trigger pain receptors and activate nearby sensory neurons. The result is excruciating pain. The headache is only one part of the equation, as the pain can extend to the scalp and the neck muscles as well. Nausea, vomiting, and fatigue are typical symptoms of a migraine and may go on for days, if not weeks. An optometrist often treats patients who experience visual disruptions like flashing lights or an “aura” that occur before or during a migraine.

Typical Migraine Triggers

For sufferers of this condition, migraines can be brought on by a number of stimuli, such as exercise, stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, alcohol, and certain smells. While some of these can certainly be avoided, it may be difficult or impossible to avoid others, such as in the case of normal hormone fluctuations. While many people think that bright light triggers a migraine, this is not actually the case. It is true, however, that bright light can significantly worsen a migraine once the meninges have begun to be irritated.

How Light Factors into the Equation 

As light enters the eye, the retina carries signals to the optic nerve, triggering the neurons mentioned above. Once these neurons are activated, they remain so for a time even after that light source is removed. An optometrist will often recommend that patients with migraines lay in a dark room until the migraine has subsided. An interesting study using blind subjects found that those who could not detect light did not experience the worsening of migraine when light was present, but those who had some light reception did. It was also observed that certain colors of light exacerbated the situation even further, such as blue and grey light.

Migraines are a painful, debilitating condition that can have severe effects on your quality of life. Consult your optometrist and medical specialist for help managing this condition if your headaches are accompanied by any of the symptoms discussed here.