Life is a little more difficult for the estimated 37 million Americans who suffer from migraines. In addition to being painful, migraine attacks can impact relationships and cause productivity to come to a screeching halt.
Light sensitivity (photophobia) often accompanies throbbing pain as one of the main symptoms of a migraine. Now, experts say exposure to a certain kind of light could actually help ease migraine pain.
According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, “pure wavelength green light” helps reduce the intensity of headaches and ease migraine sufferers’ sensitivity to light.
Reduced pain by 20%
The study had patients with migraines report on how light of different colors and intensity affected their headache. Blue, amber, or red lights at the high-intensity light level of a typical office made headaches worse.
Green light, however, tended to reduce the intensity of patient’s pain by about 20%. The researchers say this might be because green light creates the least amount of electrical signals generated by the eye’s retina and brain’s cortex.
"My hope is that patients will be able to benefit directly from these findings one day very soon," said lead author Rami Burstein, professor of Anesthesia at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School, in a statement.
Further research needed
Burstein is currently trying to create sunglasses that block out all light but green, as well as a lightbulb that can emit pure green light at a low intensity. He notes that affordability will be a challenge, as the cost of one such lightbulb is currently "astronomical."
Dr. Noah Rosen, director of Northwell Health’s Headache Center in Great Neck, N.Y., says Burstein's findings are valuable. He calls the treatment “potentially beneficial,” but notes that further research is needed.
"In general, it seems a safe treatment but one that is limited by cost, access and whether its use on a regular basis would decrease disability," Rosen told HealthDay.
The full study is published in the journal Brain.