Research suggests that patients with migraine have an increased sensitivity or intolerance to light, particularly flicker from sources like LED lighting and computer backlights “Often, this photophobia can be reduced with tinted glasses, but the color that suits one patient might not suit the next,” explains Arnold Wilkins, DPhil. With the assistance of new color-testing technology, Dr. Wilkins and colleagues sought to understand light color preferences in patients with migraine.
The researchers conducted three studies—two published in Vision and one in Headache—comparing patients who had migraine with aura, without aura, and controls without migraine to better understand the differences in light color preferences. Using the Intuitive Colorimeter—an inexpensive instrument designed by Dr. Wilkins that allows patients to choose the tint that is most beneficial for them quickly and efficiently the investigators were able to assess participants as they chose comfortable reading light. Once a comfortable color was chosen, the hue and saturation were refined to find the best color for each participant.
Participants without migraine chose light and color they would regularly experience in everyday life, whether natural daylight or artificial. The colors could all be categorized as blue, yellow, or white. Conversely, participants with migraine with aura chose strongly saturated colors, which could not be classified as natural daylight colors. “This was the case in all three studies with different samples of patients and two different investigators,” adds Dr. Wilkins. Once participants had chosen their preferred color, hue, and saturation, they were given lenses that provided that particular tint when worn in normal lighting and asked to complete various visual tasks with and without the lenses. Participants with aura increased word search speed by almost 50% with the lenses.
“Few practices in the US have the Intuitive Colorimeter used in our studies,” says Dr. Wilkins, “but I think it would benefit ophthalmologists to have this instrument in their offices.” There is preliminary evidence that various light tints may be helpful in the care of several neurological disorders (eg, autism, Tourette’s) that, like migraine, are co-morbid with epilepsy and in which the brain may be hyper-excitable, Dr. Wilkins notes the need for additional research to further evaluate if tinted lenses may be beneficial in such patient populations.