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Wearing Sunglasses Indoors Can Worsen Light Sensitivity

“Wearing sunglasses indoors actually worsens your photophobia,” my headache specialist warned me when I wore my polarized sunglasses to my appointment. The effect is not unlike medication overuse headache — you use a product because it helps, but by using it too often (or indoors instead of out), you actually became more susceptible to the problem you were trying to solve. That appointment was the last time I wore sunglasses indoors or after dark. Now, whenever I see migraineurs recommend wearing sunglasses to deal with fluorescent lights, computer monitors, TV screens, or any other bright light (like here and here), I want to yell, “Please, please don’t wear your sunglasses indoors or after dark! It can make you even more sensitive to light!”

But I can’t because I’m a co-owner of TheraSpecs, so anything I say makes readers think I’m trying to market my product. In a way, I guess I am, but only because the tint on TheraSpecs provides a better alternative to sunglasses indoors and won’t increase a person’s light sensitivity. The same neurologist who warned me against wearing sunglasses indoors or after dark is the one who told me about the precision tint that filters out the painful wavelengths of light. He has no financial ties to a company that sells glasses with this tint, he just knows it’s a better alternative than wearing sunglasses indoors. Because his suggestion helped me so much, Hart and I decided to make light-blocking frames with this special tint readily available to anyone with light sensitivity.

Now I’m in this bind of wanting to share the information that I have — information that could help migraineurs avoid exacerbating a major symptom and potential trigger — while being silenced because some people may think it’s marketing. Yes, TheraSpecs makes great products that help a lot of people, but that’s beside the point. Migraineurs are potentially worsening their photophobia by wearing sunglasses indoors and are encouraging others to do the same — and because of my affiliation with TheraSpecs, I can’t warn them of this risk. It’s so frustrating!

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Clouds Roll In, Migranie Ratchets Up

Clouds, not barometric pressure or weather changes, seem to make my pain and other migraine symptoms worse. It doesn’t track with conventional wisdom on weather triggers for migraine, but the correlation couldn’t be more obvious for me.

These past two weeks in Seattle have been marvelously illustrative. I’ve felt best on the few totally clear days. More common is a solidly overcast  morning sky with clouds that burn off in the early afternoon. I feel worse when there are clouds and better when they clear. Period.

I wake up in the morning and know it is overcast based on how my head feels (I’m sleeping in a basement, so I don’t have the light as an obvious clue). The pain starts to let up and I look outside to discover the clouds are clearing. Within an hour of the clouds clearly completely, I’m back to my baseline pain or just above it and have more energy and less brain fog. The same is true when the morning starts out clear and clouds roll in later in the day.

My mood and food cravings also track with the clouds and my pain levels. I feel generalized depression (rather than sad about a specific event or thought), have free-floating anxiety, and worry more; I also crave sugar and carbs. I’m guessing these are symptoms that kick into gear when the migraine is more severe. They are definitely symptoms I experienced regularly when my migraines were more severe on a daily basis than they’ve been in the last year. While I’m well aware of seasonal affective depression, I understand it to be a longer term phenomenon than just a cloudy few hours.

One day last week did fit the belief that weather and/or pressure changes trigger migraine attacks. A thunderstorm, a rare event for the Seattle-area, brought a level 6 migraine, the worst mine get these days (knock on wood). WeatherSpark tells me there was also a dip in barometric pressure that day. Otherwise, the barometric pressure variations have been minimal and the migraines, while annoying and moderately painful, haven’t been too disruptive.

It seems weird that clouds could have such an impact, but I’ve been practicing listening to my body and tracking very carefully. I have no doubt there’s a correlation for me. Anyone have enough atmospheric science knowledge to speculate a connection? Anyone else experience this seemingly odd phenomenon?

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The Faces of Migraine Video

You must watch The Faces of Migraine! This incredible six-minute video illustrates the startling statistics of migraine and the profound impact it has on patients’ lives.

Patient advocate Ellen Schnakenberg, her son, and a team of volunteers put together The Faces of Migraine. They’ve done a wonderful job of depicting the harsh realities of migraine. Please watch and share with your loved ones to help spread the word about migraine.

Go to the Faces of Migraine website to share your story or suggest future video projects.

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Migraine Beliefs & Their Cultural Context

Who do I blame for my beliefs about myself because of migraine? No one. I can’t single anyone out because I can’t deny the cultural context in which my notions were formed. (Yes, I know that sounds like grad student speak. Stick with me anyway.)

Think about how few doctors understand migraine today and how much is still unknown about how migraine works in the brain and body. Now consider how paltry the knowledge was 25 years ago, when my “headaches” became chronic. Without one-sided pain or a visual aura, a pediatrician or internist would not consider migraine as the culprit.

There was no way to verify or quantify my ailments when I complained of symptoms like nausea (but rarely vomiting), ear pain (but rarely any sign of infection), and dizziness. Add to these factors that the symptoms typically came on without warning and also lifted suddenly, often leaving me feeling perfectly fine on weekends. If I didn’t know what I now know about migraine, I, too, would probably think a child was making up her illness.

Remember that 95% of the world’s population has a headache at some point. For most of these people, a headache is mild and easily remedied with an OTC painkiller or a little time. Headaches are dismissed as no big deal because they are not a big deal for the vast majority of people.

I no longer refer to the pain I feel with a migraine as a headache, but as head pain. This is a new realization, one I didn’t have even eight years ago when I named this blog. For a kid, pain that occurs in the head is thought of as a headache. I had no words to explain or even a way to conceptualize what was happening in the physical area of my head as something other than a headache.

Furthermore, society dismisses the significance of illness altogether. Cancer and other life-threatening illness are treated with reverence and fear, but their true impact is also minimized. People who push themselves beyond their physical limits and refuse to acknowledge the possibility of death are praised for their bravery. Acknowledging how physically devastating treatment can be, that the odds of survival are low, or fear of death is considered “negative thinking,” which is taken as a sign the person isn’t trying hard enough.

An illness that has no visible signs (to the untrained eye), no diagnostic tests to prove its presence, is not immediately life-threatening, and has “headache” as its primary feature has little hope for being taken seriously. Never mind that the World Health Organization determined that severe, continuous migraine as disabling as quadriplegia and that chronic migraine is responsible for more years lost to disability than every other neurological illness combined*. These and other facts and statistics are painfully slow in spreading to the public’s consciousness. As much as my advocate’s heart doesn’t want to believe this, an illness with as much baggage as migraine may never be recognized as the life-changing, debilitating scourge it can be.

I wrote Migraine Beliefs because I know I’m not alone in internalizing these cultural messages. The harsh, harrowing truths I acknowledge are the reality of living with a poorly understood and highly stigmatized illness. I can only play a small role in raising society’s consciousness about migraine, but sharing my truth helps connect all migraineurs. If my words can reduce even one person’s emotional pain, loneliness, and self-blame, I have succeed.

*My headache specialist just shared this fact with me. The WHO report with that information does not appear to be online yet, so I can’t link to the source.

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New Stylish Migraine Glasses

Like the idea of TheraSpecs to minimize migraine triggers, reduce photophobia, and relieve fluorescent light sensitivity, but want a different frame than our traditional wrap? Check out Stella from our fashion line, Over-Rx for prescription glasses-wearers, or get a custom pair made to your exact specifications.

TheraSpecs Stella‘s on-trend styling and dark tortoiseshell finish look great while providing maximum protection from light with TheraSpecs’ therapeutic tint. I’ve been wearing the prototype around for a couple months. Not only have I gotten tons of compliments on the prototype, my sensitive head loves how lightweight and flexible they are. Check out Stella Indoor, Stella Outdoor, or the discounted Stella Combo.

TheraSpecsStella

For people who wear prescription glasses and want maximum coverage at minimal cost, TheraSpecs Over-Rx frames are an excellent solution. We worked extra hard to find the perfect material so they’re comfortable and lightweight even when worn over glasses. I wear them daily whenever I’m wearing  glasses instead of contacts. Available in Over-Rx Indoor, Over-Rx Outdoor, and a discounted Over-Rx Combo.

We also offer custom TheraSpecs to provide just about anything you are looking for, be it prescription lenses, readers added to any of our styles, or our lenses in your own frame.