Migraine is a certain type of severe, recurring, headache. In a few, rare, cases headaches can be a sign of a severe health problem. If recurrent headaches start or change in nature at any time the first thing that you should do is to see your family doctor.
Migraines can be triggered by many things, for example stress, eating chocolate, lights, or patterns. Some people with migraine who are bothered by bright lights and patterns find comfort from wearing coloured spectacles.
It has been claimed that some people with dyslexia (specific reading difficulty) can be helped by coloured glasses. The only way to thoroughly investigate claims like this is with a type of research called a ‘double-masked placebo-controlled trial’.
In the 1990s, Professor Evans participated in such a trial to investigate this claim, and this research showed that coloured glasses do reduce headaches in some people with dyslexia, although they are not a cure for the dyslexia. The researchers found that different people need different colours and people often need to be given exactly the colour that suits them; for example, exactly the right shade of blue. This research used a new instrument, the Intuitive Colorimeter (illustrated on the left) to find what colour a person needed, and a new system of coloured lenses, Precision Tinted Lenses to make up their glasses. This research was published in the journal of the College of Optometrists, Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, in 1994. These methods are now being used by many optometrists.
In the course of this research it was noticed that many people who benefited from coloured lenses had migraine in the family. Other observations also had indicated that some people with migraine may be helped by using precision tinted lenses.
It therefore seemed possible that, for some people with migraine, the frequency of headaches might be reduced with precision coloured glasses. By ‘precision’ it is meant that different people may need different colours and the colour may need to be precisely determined for each person.
To investigate this, a group of researchers investigated the use of precision tinted lenses for people who have migraines that are triggered by visual factors. Professor Evans, our principal optometrist, was one of the researchers in this study, which was a small double masked randomised placebo controlled trial. The research was published in the journal Cephalalgia in 2002 and found that individually prescribed coloured filters can reduce the prevalence of headaches for some people with migraine.
If a person suspects that their headaches are triggered by visual factors (flickering, reading, television, or computers) then Mrs Shah, Dr O’Leary, or Professor Evans at this practice are able to offer them a visual investigation, including testing with the Intuitive Colorimeter. If you are not sure whether your headaches have visual triggers then it can help to complete a headache diary. Over time, a pattern can emerge revealing likely triggers, which you may be able to avoid. If visual factors appear to be a trigger then please contact the practice. You can download a headache diary by clicking here (we are happy for other optometrists to download this diary and modify it for their own use). Other interventions to reduce symptoms from light, patterns, and flicker are given elsewhere on this website.
An opportunity for migraine sufferers to help with an on-line research study
Dr Alex Shepherd is a leading researcher of visual factors in migraine who is based at Birkbeck, University of London. Dr Shepherd is conducting an on-line study to track changes in visual perception that occur over the migraine cycle. The study is looking for people who are prepared to participate regularly, ideally daily or every other day, over several months. It just takes a few minutes each day. The researchers aim to track changes over time and associate these changes with when the migraines occur. If they can demonstrate changes, it may be possible to develop an application to predict the likely occurrence of a migraine attack and take steps to try to avoid it. Those completing the study will be entered into a raffle which has five £50 gifts as prizes. For further information, please see the on-line study page (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/psychology/e/xp/88/1) or contact Dr Alex Shepherd (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Some people with epilepsy, rather like those with migraine, find that visual stimuli (e.g., light, flicker, computers, sometimes text on paper) can trigger their attacks. Coloured filters can also help these people and Professor Evans will be able to give advice on this.