By Peggy –
Once upon a time, television was my distraction of choice. Through many long days of chronic migraine pain, it hypnotized and help numb. I could keep the volume low and park myself in front of the screen to (somewhat) keep from focusing on my throbbing head. But last February when the pain of my intractable migraine spiked beyond what I previously knew possible, the TV became yet another trigger — too bright and too loud.
We turned the TV off in our house last winter, and it remained off for five months. (The sole exception was the Game of Thrones final season, because of course winter’s coming couldn’t be delayed or DVR’d!) I made it through those GOT episodes by closing my eyes as needed and with the little help I got from a pair of blue light glasses from Amazon.
Not wanting to invest the money in migraine glasses, I had bought an inexpensive pair of blue light glasses to try. They did little, particularly with the computer, a true nemesis of mine. Even with them, I could not be on the computer for more than ten minutes without triggering an attack. I could not use any screen bigger than my phone (with the phone settings adjusted to filter out blue light). Beyond that, car rides were difficult for me. At the brightest moments on one 10+ hour car ride home to Florida, I hid from the piercing sun with a jacket over my head.
MIGRAINE GLASSES: What are they?
After five months of living with this heightened light sensitivity and with the blue light glasses doing little to help, I finally decided to give real migraine glasses a try. Migraine glasses filter out certain light at various wavelengths on the FL-41 spectrum. Avoiding or blocking all light can actually make us more light sensitive, even though this may seem counterintuitive. I have heard this from experts at the Migraine World Summit and from my own headache specialist as well.
This phenomenon is called dark adaptation and can result from wearing too-dark glasses or from staying in a darkened environment too much, not allowing our eyes to be exposed to light.
It can be hard to find a good balance with light, and this is an area where migraine glasses can help. Ideally, migraine glasses block the troublesome FL–41 wavelength while allowing as much regular light to pass through as possible.
While other brands have come out recently, the two leading companies making migraine glasses are Axon Optics and Theraspecs. Both companies offer the glasses for comparable prices (ranging from $99-$149) with frequent sale promotions. Both companies offer generous return policies that allow you to purchase the glasses, try them out carefully, and return them if you are not satisfied (see policies here: Axon Optics, Theraspecs). Both websites have detailed information not just about their products but about light sensitivity and other migraine-related issues.
It is important to note that each company’s lens tint is formulated differently and blocks out the light somewhat differently. When deciding what to buy, look at their websites, pictures, and see here and here. If necessary, try each company’s glasses. This may be feasible given their return policies. In addition to non-prescription lenses, you can can send in your eyeglass prescription and get customized migraine lenses.
Theraspecs was started by Kerrie Smyres, who has had chronic migraine since she was a teenager. Axon was the first company to develop migraine glasses back in 2010 at the University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center. I ultimately chose Axon’s glasses.
I ordered my Axon glasses in July 2019 as part of their July 4th sale. The glasses were not provided to me or discounted in exchange for this review. I initially ordered both indoor and outdoor pairs of Axon’s Dalliance frames. These looked great but were very tight and squeezed my head. I could tell that the lenses helped me during the first few days, so I exchanged them for the Jura frames. These are looser fitting and comfortable on my head and ears. I find them to be stylish and enjoy wearing them. Axon’s customer service was responsive and made the exchange easy.
I wish I had purchased these glasses sooner. They are now indispensable for me. I use the sunglasses every time I am in the car. They have given me back the freedom to be outside on sunny days, occasionally for hours at a time. I have also worn the lighter-shaded, indoor glasses outside on cloudy days. At the end of last summer, my husband and I spent two nights at the beach and pool. The sunglasses helped me stay outdoors, enjoying those activities much longer than I would have been able to with regular sunglasses.
I wear the indoor glasses religiously. I wear them at the grocery store and other stores with fluorescent lighting. I wear them when I am looking at any screen — my phone, iPad, computer or TV. The computer can still be problematic for me, but I have been able to spend time on the computer – one time for even an hour — without it triggering increased pain.
We have even started watching TV again. Our viewing is still somewhat limited. But this means we were able to make it through the entire season of Stranger Things 3, flashing lights notwithstanding, and those kids and 80’s nostalgia brought me no small amount of joy.
Migraine glasses were well worth the investment for me. It is hard to know what impact the glasses have had on my overall number of attacks given my current intractable migraine state. They are helping me live a fuller life and return to many of the activities that light sensitivity had kept from me. If light sensitivity is triggering attacks and interfering with your daily activities, I would highly recommend trying migraine glasses.
*Note: There may also be other opportunities for you to get a pair of these glasses. Axon gave some away for free at RetreatMigraine in 2019 and is a sponsor again for 2020. Both Axon and Theraspecs have at times included donations in Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc’s triage kits. Axon is also a partner with The Migraine Mantras!