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HeadWay, Issue #089 -- Flicker
June 21, 2011

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In this month's issue:

Flicker - Migraine and Visual Stimuli

New Migraine Barometer Shipment

Say what?!  Pattern Glare

Flicker - Migraine and Visual Stimuli

Yes, what you see can trigger a migraine attack.  But what kinds of things can trigger attacks?  And is there anything we can do about it?

Migraineurs have reported being bothered by a number of visual things, including:
  • Fluorescent lights (yes, even when they're working properly)
  • Computer/TV Screens
  • Flickering sunlight (ie when driving past a line of trees)
Studies have certainly confirmed that migraine patients do react differently to flicker.  For example, a study in 2002 at McGill University found that those with migraine were more sensitive to flicker, becoming uncomfortable at lower contrasts than the general population.

A study this month from York University confirmed again that migraineurs have trouble adapting to flickering lights.  The sensitivity is not just at one point - it seems to be a complex difference in the visual systems for a migraine patient.  In other words, their bodies react differently to flicker.  They're just more sensitive.  (See Detection and discrimination of flicker contrast in migraine)

Where is the research going?

The research is still only beginning.  There's a lot we don't understand about a migraine patient's reaction to flickering light, and contrasting patterns.  However, the research thus far is telling us that migraineurs have "unique brains" that process the information in a different way - and that means all the time, not just during a migraine attack.

So this is not just about fluorescent lights - it's about the way our bodies work.  Researchers are interested in understanding the migraine chain-reaction, and in understanding how migraine is different in different people.  This may lead to better treatments, and more specialized treatments in the future.

What can I do about Flicker?

Here are a few things you might want to consider that could help fight migraine attacks and improve your vision overall:
  • Natural light:  When possible, use natural light.  Consider a place near the window, use of mirrors, time outdoors, etc.
  • LEDs:  There may be concern when it comes to CFLs (those common "energy efficient bulbs" due to environmental concerns (the use of mercury in the bulbs is probably the biggest concern), but migraineurs have another issue - the fact that they flicker.  More and more people are turning to LED bulbs, which are more environmentally friendly, generate less heat, and are extremely energy efficient.  Though there is debate about how and how much CFLs may trigger migraine attacks, LED flicker is at a much higher rate and therefore seems to cause fewer health issues.  Read more here and here.
  • Computer/TV/iPod/etc etc etc:  Limit your time in front of screens, and use available tools to minimize the impact - check here for more tips.
  • Sunglasses:  Purchase a good, quality pair of sunglasses.  For tips, read this article.
  • Precision Tinted Lenses:  Consider being prescribed some precision tinted lenses.  These could not only decrease your migraine symptoms, but also make you more comfortable overall and improve your vision.  Read more here.  This is especially helpful for those who experience pattern glare (see below).

New Migraine Barometer Shipment!

Good news for those of you who have been waiting to purchase the Migraine Barometer!  New ones are finally being shipped!

A little background: This digital barometer is by far the most useful tool I've come across for anyone who suspects that weather plays a role in their migraine attacks.  However, we've had a great deal of trouble keeping them in stock - something that is, I'm afraid, out of our control.

However, we do have some available - at least temporarily!  So I'm making the order page available again for anyone who is interested.  Once they're sold out, I'll have to shut down the page again.

For more about weather and migraine, read How to handle the dreaded barometric pressure headache!  Find out about the Migraine Barometer here.

Say what?!  Pattern Glare

Pattern Glare is a term used to describe the discomfort or visual perceptual distortions that may be experienced when viewing striped patterns.  Different from flicker, pattern glare is also typically worse for migraine patients.  Precision tinted glasses may significantly help people who have pattern glare symptoms.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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