Headache sensitive to light

Headache sensitive to light?

If you have a headache sensitive to light, it may be a clue about what's actually going on in your brain. It may also be an indication about what kind of headache you have. A new study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in April, 2005 that confirms that many migraine sufferers, for example, are hypersensitive to light. And that's not the only headache sensitive to light.

In their book Migraine and Other Headaches, published in 2004, Drs Young and Silberstein write a bit about what science has discovered:
The brains of migraineurs are hyperexcitable and behave differently than the brains of nonmigraineurs. Migraineurs see a flash of light when exposed to a magnetic pulse, but it was recently discovered that migraineurs see this flash at a significantly lower power pulse than do nonmigraineurs. This shows that the visual part of the migraineur's brain is hypersensitive.

Though the cause of migraine is not fully understood, something in the migraineur's brain is hypersensitive. About 80% of migraine sufferers are sensitive to light. In fact, when diagnosing migraine, photophobia (sensitivity to light) is one of the defining factors. If you are especially sensitive to light or sound during a headache attack, you may have migraine.

The study we mentioned earlier found that people in the far north (Norway, in this case) who got migraine with aura were more likely to have migraine attacks during the "lighter" months of the year. These people did not only have a headache sensitive to light, they were sensitive even between headache attacks. This seems to support the theory that migraineurs are simply more sensitive to light. These people often wore sunglasses to try to minimize the problem.

Other headaches?

Migraine sufferers are not the only ones with photophobia. You can also get cluster headache sensitive to light. Cluster patients deal with incredibly painful headaches that come in cycles, perhaps 1-6 headaches a day - disappearing for months and years and then coming back full force. Besides headache sensitive to light, cluster patients also get watery eyes, congestion and a drooping eyelid.

Other things can cause photophobia, including an inflammation of parts of your eye (eg iritis or pinkeye). If you have symptoms such as nausea, fever, or stiff neck, you could have a serious infection in your nervous system. Things like this are reason to see a doctor without delay. Check WebMD for possible causes of headache sensitive to light and related symptoms.

What can I do about it?

If you have a headache sensitive to light, or any new headache, the first thing to do is see your doctor. Many things can cause sensitivity to light, so it's best to have a doctor check you out.

There are other things you can do as well.
1. Visit an optometrist, and have them check out your eyes as well. Make sure there are no diseases in your eyes that could be causing the problem.
2. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses. This would be a good thing to talk to your doctor about. You may be sensitive to certain frequencies of light - each pair of sunglasses is different, and blocks out different frequencies. You could do more harm than good if you get a cheap pair.
3. Many people, including myself, with headache sensitive to light find a rest with an eye pillow a big help, not only for keeping out light but for soothing sore eyes and headache. Resting your eyes for a while may solve the problem.
4. Some people are sensitive to fluorescent light. Try changing to a different kind of lighting and see if it makes a difference in your headache sensitive to light
5. Try some non-prescription eye drops, or ask your optometrist for some.
6. If you wear contacts, try taking them out for a while, even a day or two.

If you found this information helpful, why not check out the Migraine and Headache News Blog? That's where studies like the ones above are first reported. Or, get tips right to your inbox by signing up for HeadWay, the free headache ezine!

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