Fighting Migraines With Green Light

green light

 

Migraine sufferers will know well the pain of being around flickering bulbs and harsh fluorescent strip-lights. Not all lighting is migraineur-friendly, and some of it is of such a bad or triggering quality that it helps to bring on a migraine attack.

 

There are some lights that could be beneficial however, and actually reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine sufferers’ attacks.

 

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences found that a very specific wavelength of green light, when used in a therapeutic manner, resulted in a 60% reduction in the pain intensity of the headache phase of migraine attacks, and reduced the number of days per month that sufferers had migraine headaches.

 

The study involved 29 people who suffered from either episodic or chronic migraines, and who had not found traditional therapies such as Botox injections and oral medications effective. During the study, these participants were exposed to white light for between one and two hours a day for ten weeks. The participants were given a two-week break, and then exposed to green light for between one and two hours a day for ten weeks.

 

The participants reported back the effects of the treatment through regular surveys and questionnaires. Using a scale of 0 to 10, it was found that green light resulted in a 60% pain reduction (from a pain rating of 8 to 3.2), that it reduced the duration of the headache pain, and that it improved participants’ ability to perform chores, exercise, work, and to fall and stay asleep.

 

As well as being an inexpensive form of therapy, the green light therapy was seen as a good option for migraine sufferers as it did not result in any side effects for the participants.

 

The lead author of the study, Mohab Ibrahim, MD, PhD, explained that;

 

“It’s not any green light. It has to be the right intensity, the right frequency, the right exposure time and the right exposure methods. Just like with medications, there is a sweet spot with light.”

 

“As a physician, this is really exciting. Now I have another tool in my toolbox to treat one of the most difficult neurological conditions — migraine.”

 

Are Migraines Putting Women Off Pregnancy?

pregnancy

According to research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, almost 20% of women with migraines said that they avoided pregnancy specifically because of their migraines.

 

The researchers who reported the findings evaluated responses from women with migraines who took part in the American Registry for Migraine Research – an observational study which signed up participants from specialty headache clinics across the US. Between February 2016 and September 2019, 607 women with migraines completed questionnaires for the study.

 

Results found that, of the 19.9% of women who avoided pregnancy because of their migraines, 72.5% believed that their migraines would get worse during a pregnancy, 76% believed that their migraine medication would impact on their baby’s development, and 82.6% felt that their migraines would make raising a child more difficult. One shocking finding from the questionnaire results was that 72.7% of the women who avoided pregnancy were worried that the child would have an increased risk for migraines

How to Get Better Sleep (And Maybe Fewer Migraines?)

better sleep

When you suffer from migraines, you can easily find that your sleep is disrupted. That is if it is not impossible to get at times! Not only do migraines badly affect sleep, but since not enough (or, conversely, too much) sleep is a migraine trigger for many sufferers, it can become a vicious cycle of interrupted sleep from migraines leading to more migraines, leading to more bad nights, and so on.

On the positive side, there are some things you can do to help maintain a good quality of sleep, and in turn, hopefully reduce the frequency and severity of migraines you experience.

 

Stick to a schedule

If you regularly fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day, your body will become used to the routine and will be able to regulate your body clock. Giving your body a consistent amount of sleep will help it to run smoothly.

 

Make a ritual

If you have a ritual set of activities you do before you go to bed your body will know that it’s time for sleep, and make it that much easier for it to switch off! Try to stay away from screens for at least an hour before you go to bed. The light which screens emit have been proven to disrupt sleep and make it harder to switch your body off. Maybe read a book before bed, have a bath, or do half an hour of mediation. Whatever works for you

 

Separate your sleep space

If you don’t have a comfortable and calm space to fall asleep in, your body will find it so much harder to drop off. Keep your bed as a place you sleep, and don’t be tempted to visit it during the day, or watch TV from bed, or (even worse!) work in bed.

Migraine Treatments – Ask Yourself If They Work

migraine treatments

 

Each migraineur is an individual whose migraine attacks will be unique to them. This means the length of their attacks will differ from other sufferers, as will their symptoms, their attack frequency, and what treatments are effective for them.

 

Since not everyone will respond to every migraine treatment, it’s important to be able to find out if a treatment is effective quickly. If the treatment doesn’t work, it’s time to try something else. Sadly there is no out-and-out, problem-solved cure for migraines – so a 100% stop to migraines is not a plausible outcome to measure efficacy against.

 

Instead these are some questions which you can ask yourself:

 

  • Are you pain-free in 2-4 hours?

 

  • Are you able to function normally (or close to normal) in 3-4 hours?

 

  • Does your headache respond to the treatment consistently at least 50% of the time?

 

  • Are you comfortable with taking the treatment prescribed and still able to plan your day?

 

The American Migraine Association says that if you responded “no” to one or more of these questions then your treatment should be reassessed.

However, it normally takes a few months to see whether a migraine treatment is effective or not. So you do have to give it some time before deciding that a specific treatment is not for you.

It’s also worth asking whether you are taking your treatment early enough in the migraine attack for it to be effective. There is a “window of opportunity” which is typically the two hours after the onset of head pain. After this time there is less chance that the body will respond to the treatment.

Could A Magnesium Deficiency Be Making Your Migraines Worse?

magnesium deficiency

There are a variety of different factors which might make someone more likely to suffer from migraines. For example, you are more likely to suffer from migraines if you are; female, if you suffer from depression, if your family has a history of migraines, and these are to name just a few.

A magnesium deficiency is another thing which can make it more likely that a person will suffer from migraines.

A systematic review (the findings of which were published in the scientific journal Nutrients) found that there is a correlation between magnesium deficiency and headaches; and that this is an independent risk factor for migraines. Not ingesting enough magnesium, in addition to increased loss of it throughout the digestion process, can contribute to the deficiency.

It is possible to include more magnesium in your diet by eating foods that contain high levels of magnesium such as nuts, dark leafy greens, seeds, whole grains, beans and fish. It is also an option for those who have a migraine deficiency to take tablet supplements, or magnesium salts (though a doctor should be consulted before starting to take supplements).

Magnesium is an important mineral for the body to have. It is involved in enzyme and nerve activity, DNA and protein synthesis, and many key bodily functions. In terms of migraines specifically, magnesium has been shown to inhibit pro-inflammatory intracellular signalling. For some migraine sufferers, inflammation of blood vessels in the brain is a key element of their migraines – so a lack of magnesium (which helps to keep inflammation down) is especially bad news.

It’s also worth noting that a lack of magnesium was found in some migraineurs who suffered with aura migraines as a result of cortical spreading depression. Investigators explained that magnesium decreases the level of circulating calcitonin gene-related peptide, which is “involved in migraine pathogenesis through its ability to dilate intracranial blood vessels and produce nociceptive stimuli.” 

It has been reported that magnesium, with its relative lack of side effects, is particularly compelling for the treatment of migraines and headaches within groups in which side effects are less well tolerated (such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly population). The review authors therefore concluded that, “the use of oral magnesium salt represents a well-tolerated and inexpensive addition for the treatment of headache patients, to reduce the frequency of attacks and the costs of treatment both in terms of economic burden and adverse events”.

A New Lens to Fight Chronic Migraines

A contact lens designed by a group of researchers from the University of Ghent and the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (imec) in Leuven may prove to be useful to some migraine sufferers when it comes to managing their migraines.

Primarily made to help people who have damaged or lost their iris, this electronic contact lens is based on a series of concentric rings built on an LCD and run on ultra-low power so it can operate all day. The lens opens and closes its aperture to control the amount of light reaching the eye’s retina.

It is thought that it will be of help to those who have conditions such as aniridia (the absence of an iris), keratoconus (a thinning of the cornea which encases the eyeball), and those who suffer from light sensitivity – such as some chronic migraine sufferers.

The project’s lead researcher, Professor Andrés Vásquez Quintero, explained that; “Our smart contact lens can control the level of incoming light mimicking a human iris and offering a potential solution to vision correction […] This way, our approach can surpass current solutions to combat human eye iris deficiencies. Its beneficial optical effects will be further clinically validated and developed into a medical device.”

When the finished lens is ready, the researchers predict that it may be of benefit to around 20 million people worldwide – some of them migraine sufferers.

What Are The Different Migraine Types?

migraine types

Understanding migraines – what they are, what causes them, and what can be done about them – is hard enough at the best of times. It’s even harder though when there are so many variations of migraine which you might be experiencing and need specialised treatment for.

 

With that in mind, these are, in brief, some of the different types of migraine which exist.

 

Migraine without aura

This is a head pain which lasts between 4 and 72 hours when untreated, and which takes place usually on one side of your head. Other symptoms of this “traditional migraine” are; nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, sensitivity to light, sounds and smells. 70-90% of people with migraines experience this form of migraine.

 

Migraine with aura

This involves the headache pain of a migraine without aura, but with the addition of extra symptoms which develop over a 5-20 minute period and last for less than an hour. These symptoms can include (but are not limited to); seeing coloured spots in your vision, flashing lights, numbness or tingling, dizziness, and nausea.

 

Chronic migraine

This is the term given to migraines which occur on more than fifteen days per month.

 

Menstrual migraine

As the name suggests, this migraine is linked to the menstrual cycle. This type of migraine is thought to be caused by a drop in oestrogen and the release of prostaglandin just prior to menstruation. This migraine can strike in the two days leading up to the start of a period, and in the first few days of the period itself.

 

Hemiplegic migraine

This is a migraine during which sufferers experience temporary weakness on one side of the body. This can be accompanied by vision problems, speech difficulties and confusion. It’s particularly stressful as this migraine has symptoms which are similar to those of a stroke.

 

Migraine with brainstem aura

This was previously known as basilar-type migraine. It involves an aura phase that precedes headache pain, and during which symptoms such as slurring of speech, pins and needles or loss of function in the arms/legs, ringing in the ears, and loss of balance can develop gradually.

 

Vestibular migraine

This variant of migraine involves feeling dizzy, having balance problems, or experiencing vertigo as the main migraine symptom – though other migraine symptoms such as headache and nausea can also occur with this type of migraine.

 

Migraine Increases As A Result Of Coronavirus

coronavirus

We already know the devastating havoc which catching the coronavirus can result in. Reduced lung capacity, fever, difficulty breathing – the illness is incredibly serious.

It’s not just the catching the virus itself that is causing people damage though. The effects of staying inside and distanced from friends and family has been shown to be having a marked impact on the mental wellbeing of society as a whole and on an individual level.

Migraine sufferers have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in an additional way. Migraine sufferers have reported that they are experiencing more frequent and more severe migraines since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

A new survey conducted by the Migraine Association of Ireland, alongside pharmaceutical company Novartis, detailed this finding via their sample group of 120 adults living with migraine in Ireland. 58% of the survey respondents reported that they had been suffering from more frequent migraine attacks. 69% of the group said that their migraines symptoms have worsened since the coronavirus crisis began.

It’s no coincidence that migraine attacks have increased in number and severity at the same time as the pandemic has struck. Of the 58% of sufferers who reported having more frequent attacks, 84% said that this was because of the stress caused by the pandemic.

Other migraine exacerbating factors are cited as being; disrupted daily routines, increased screen time, disturbed sleep patterns, and many other triggers being encountered on a more regular basis as a result of lockdown.

Although there is no easy solution, some advice which has been offered to try and reduce the migraine increase has been to try to reduce stress through meditation and yoga, taking regular breaks from screens during the day, and creating a new daily routine and sticking to it as much as is possible.

Does Chocolate Trigger Migraines? Maybe Not…

chocolate

Eating chocolate is often cited as a migraine trigger. In the past, some migraine sufferers have been advised to avoid eating chocolate in case it brings on an attack. Some migraine sufferers have also noticed that they suffer from a migraine attack after eating it, and so have concluded themselves that it is a trigger for them and have chosen to avoid it.

While every migraine sufferer is different and will have different migraine triggers, it has been claimed that chocolate could be a trigger for a great proportion of those migraine sufferers. The American Migraine Foundation has said that it is thought to be the second most common trigger for migraines (alcohol being the most common), with 22% of migraine sufferers feeling that it is a trigger. However, in more recent years following greater levels of research, the evidence doesn’t seem to support the chocolate=migraine attack hypothesis.

Now researchers believe that eating chocolate and the onset of a migraine attack may be linked, but more in terms of bodily cravings which occur just before an attack (it has been suggested that a craving may actually be a migraine warning sign), rather than cause-and-effect.

In one study, even eating large amounts of chocolate didn’t trigger a migraine attack when the participants couldn’t tell if they were eating it. In fact, and perhaps shockingly to some, all provocative studies conducted in relation to chocolate and migraines have failed to show that it can trigger a migraine. Rather, the possible mechanisms through which chocolate can influence migraines are more beneficial rather than attack-triggering.

The reason the body may crave chocolate before an attack has been suggested as being to do with a need to boost its level of serotonin. Some migraines medications are based on this serotonin deficit – the drug sumatriptan acts like serotonin in the brain and this is one reason why it can help to relieve some migraines.

When it comes to chocolate, it contains a substance called tryptophan, which breaks down into serotonin in the body. So it seems that a craving could be your body trying to naturally restore its serotonin balance.

With all this in mind, chocolate doesn’t necessarily deserve the migraine-trigger label it’s been given.

Study Finds Migraines Cost More If You’re A Woman

migraines women

Migraines are a pain, in far more ways than just one. They hurt our head, naturally, but they can also hurt our confidence, our daily routines, and our wallets. In a study which was recently published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, a team of Italian researchers presented their findings which showed that the financial cost of migraines was far greater for women.

The team enrolled 548 patients who were suffering from chronic and episodic migraines and then the team broke down the cost of migraines which the patients had to pay into its different parts.

The main cause of expenditure was medication – medication costs accounted for 86.3% of the total costs. After that came specialist visits – 10.2%, hospitalisations – 1.9%, diagnostic tests – 1%, and emergency department visits – 0.1%. The average cost of medications was €1286 (or around £1159), and, of this, preventative medications was the majority of the cost at €1095 (or around £987).

The Italian government covered most of the costs, with average annual expenditure per patient coming in at €1482 (approximately £1336), but even so, patients had an annual, personal expenditure of €255 (approximately £230).

The main findings of the study in terms of differences between migraine sufferers, and which sufferers had to pay more, were that chronic migraines incurred a cost which was 4.8 times higher than the costs incurred from episodic migraines, but perhaps most notable was the finding that costs were significantly higher for women. The annual cost of migraine for female sufferers was €1517 (or £1368), but for men the cost was only €1274 (or £1149).

The researchers did not say why they thought the costs were higher for women, but historically men are less likely to ask for help or medication and instead feel that they must “grin and bear it”. This is one theory as to why the medication cost is less – the men’s propensity to try and do without medication.

It may also be that the medication which is recommended to women is different to that recommended to men (migraines triggered by the menstrual cycle are likely going to have different preventative medication prescribed for them to migraines which are triggered by environmental factors), and this medication which women took was more expensive.

These are just theories however, and more detailed studies would need to be done to find out why there is a cost discrepancy; what (if anything) can be done about it; and whether it is only a discrepancy for Italian migraine sufferers, or if migraines are more expensive to treat for women around the world.