How to prevent light-triggered migraines while driving?
December 15, 2017 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I get photosensitive migraines with aura that are triggered by flashes of bright light such as reflections off of cars, and this occurs often when I'm driving during the day. I already wear polarized sunglasses (prescription). Is there anything else I can do that will help block the light or prevent the migraine?

When I'm driving and there are reflections off of cars ahead of me it's like I'm being stabbed in the brain. I've been researching things like windshield tinting, different types of shades or screens for the car, and special glasses, but I can't tell what actually helps. And since I already wear polarized sunglasses I can't use another polarized object. (Unfortunately most migraine medications are not an option for me since I had a stroke a few years ago.) I know I should talk to a neurologist and an optometrist but I won't have insurance until February, so hoping I can find something that helps before then.
posted by Dilemma to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
Are you doing regular migraine prophylaxis stuff like avoiding the usual triggering foods/drinks, taking magnesium supplements, etc? Many people find that stuff helpful and it doesn't really hurt to try.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:01 PM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

You have my sympathies--fellow traveler, here. I have migraines triggered by glare, and it is a real problem when driving, with sun reflecting off of windows and mirrors during the day, and headlights searing into the eyes at night.

One thing that helped me some was giving up all hope of looking cool, and wearing a pair of these, generally sold as "over-glasses sunglasses." One good thing about them is they reduce glare flashes coming in from the side, which a lot of sunglasses let through. A second is that they allow doubling-up on the light reduction factor on particularly bright, shiny days by wearing them over sunglasses. Another helpful aid is a sun visor with a suction cup that you can move around onto any spot on a car window, like this.

I never found any solution for the problem of glare during night driving, unfortunately. I don't drive at night at all anymore, because my brain just can't deal with high contrast between light and dark, and not only does glare trigger migraines, but it completely blots out dim visual input. At night this is basically anything that is not headlights, meaning I can't see much at all, and really should not be driving.

Best of luck!
posted by DrMew at 1:11 PM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was coming to recommend the same sort of shades as DrMew, but as mine are polarized I don't think that would work on top of what you already have. I went away from prescription shades because I absolutely need the side protection that comes from the wrap around models, and it as you note stacking two layers of shades doesn't work well.

The biggest trigger for me is brief, repetitive flashes: headlights on the other side of a railing flashing through the gaps are the worst. But I am lucky because it takes 5-10 minutes from the beginning of an aura to it impairing my safe function, I always have time to pull over and do my emergency routine to stop it.

For myself, if I keep on top of my other triggers I can minimize this one. Sleep and hydration are my big triggers other than lights and eye fatigue, so I try to never drive if those are compromised.
posted by buildmyworld at 2:35 PM on December 15, 2017

I asked a similar question a few months ago and daily magnesium supplements have fixed the issue to the point where I don't need the glasses any more.
posted by terretu at 3:35 PM on December 15, 2017

There's an interesting recent study that suggests that while blue light tends to exacerbate migraines, exposure to a "narrow band of green light" actually reduces photosensitivity as well as pain.

And the author of the study is working on developing therapeutic sunglasses:
For his part, Burstein said he's now trying to develop an affordable light bulb that emits narrow-band green light at low intensity, as well as sunglasses that block all but the narrow band of green light
Those may be a long time coming, but I think you could find out the exact frequencies he's talking about, and possibly compare the frequencies passed by existing sunglasses and window tints to good effect.
posted by jamjam at 4:08 PM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately this suggestion is expensive, so maybe not feasible until you have insurance, but I'm extremely light-sensitive and the contact lenses I got from this site have done more to reduce my migraines than anything else I've ever tried -- including medications. (I also tried the indoor glasses, and found them to help some, but not as much as the contacts).
posted by mrmurbles at 5:08 PM on December 15, 2017

I have found that wearing a baseball cap, in addition to sunglasses, helps a _lot_. It surprised me. I only tried it when, after years of asking and asking why my dude insisted on wearing a cap _all the time_, he told me that part of the reason was to block light while he was walking or driving. I couldn't believe he didn't suggest it to me!

A lot of caps have very curved bills that block a bit of peripheral vision; see what kind you like.

Bonus: the one I have has a velcro sizing band in back; when I have a bit of a headache, I can make it very tight, which makes my head feel better.
posted by amtho at 9:51 PM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

For people who’ve found migraine relief from magnesium, what kind, what brand, and what dose? I know YANMD and TINMA.
posted by bookworm4125 at 11:49 PM on December 15, 2017


I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but I use chelated (i.e., contains vitiamin C also) Mg tablets.

Gerolsteiner mineral water contains an exceptional amount of Mg. I started taking Mg tablets after I realized I was craving Gerolsteiner, specifically, and it seemed to help; I researched the mineral contents and found it had a lot more Mg than other kinds of mineral water. I still like drinking it and I think it helps sometimes.

OTC electrolyte pills, found in "buy sports clothing and shoes" stores, also help. They also sometimes have a tiny bit of potassium, which I think I need also. These really help me, especially if I'm just headachy from being overtired or too hot.
posted by amtho at 7:13 AM on December 16, 2017

Definitely need sunglasses that block light from the sides. For future readers who don't need prescription lenses, these are available at any hardware store and sold as tinted safety glasses. When I wore prescription lens in the past the only option I found was those less fashionable lenses someone else linked to -- you're in your car, so no need to worry about fashion.

I like hats with a brim all the way around, not the small brims on baseball caps. They do take some getting used to though.

amtho, if tightness helps, check out hardhats with a dial adjustment. Some people quite like them for headaches.
posted by yohko at 1:47 PM on December 16, 2017

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