Sunglasses to Help Prevent Migraines and Headaches

Sunglasses can help with headaches.
Sunglasses can help with headaches. Jack Wassell Photography/Getty Images

Whether it's the height of summer or the depths of winter, good sunglasses are a necessity for those of you who suffer from ​migraine and headache pain. Not only are sunglasses vital to help you avoid migraine and headache attacks, but they're also super-important for your eye health.

Even so, you need to shop wisely for sunglasses, and then remember to actually wear them once you've purchased them—a common mistake.

Here's what you need to know about how sunglasses can protect your eyes and help you guard against migraines and headaches.

Sunglasses and Migraine Prevention

If you have a headache or migraine disorder, you'll probably want to take whatever measures are necessary to prevent attacks. Keeping your eyes shielded from the sun can help for the following three reasons:

  • Bright sunlight and reflected light can trigger a migraine or headache; in fact, some studies show that up to 60 percent of migraine attacks are triggered by bright light or glare
  • Migraineurs are often somewhat photophobic even when they are not experiencing a migraine at that point in time. ​​
  • When you do have a headache or migraine, sunglasses may be helpful even under normal, indoor lighting conditions.

In addition, it's interesting to note that migraine is the most common causes of photophobia, which is eye sensitivity or discomfort in bright light.

In fact, up to 80 percent of people with migraine disorder experience sensitivity to light during an attack. At the same time, light sensitivity has been reported with other types of headache, including tension-type headache, cluster headache, and hemicrania continua.

The bottom line here is that for some people, sunglasses may very well be an important part of their migraine or headache prevention toolkit.

Additional Health Benefits

The migraine and headache-averting benefits of sunglasses likely provide you with enough reasons to purchase a decent pair and wear them. But if you want more good reasons, here are two more:

  • Good sunglasses block ultraviolet rays (both UVA and UVB rays), which have been linked to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye damage.
  • If you have any existing eye problems, bright sunlight and/or ultraviolet rays can make those problems worse.

Lastly, don't forget to get good sunglasses for your children, as well as for yourself. You're investing in the future of their good vision. When children are too young to get them to wear sunglasses, get them a hat with a brim that will block the sun from their eyes.

What to Consider When Shopping for Sunglasses

You don't need to spend a small fortune on sunglasses to help your migraines or headaches, but you should steer clear of poorly-made, cheaper ones.

When purchasing your sunglasses, they should have these three features:

  • Good optical-grade lenses
  • A coating that blocks ultraviolet light in the UVA and UVB ranges (if you don't have this special coating, the dark tint will actually make your exposure to the UV rays worse because it allows the pupils to dilate and allows more UV rays to enter your eyes)
  • Polarized lenses, which reduce scattered light (the type of light that causes glare)

If you wear prescription lenses, it's a good idea to order a pair of prescription sunglasses with these characteristics, since that might make you more likely to wear them.

A Word From Verywell

Almost everyone with headaches or migraine disease depends on sunglasses, but it's critical to shop wisely when you're buying them—remember, you're guarding against more than just head pain.

Ophthalmologists report seeing an increase in cataracts at younger ages, and more cases of macular degeneration than ever before. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness, and we're facing an epidemic of it in the United States.

Since the damage from UV rays is cumulative, it's essential to start with putting proper sunglasses and hats on your children and teaching them the importance of eye protection as they become old enough to understand.

And, don't sacrifice quality to save a few dollars. The quality of sunglasses does count. Good sunglasses are vital for our head pain and eye health.

Sources:

American Optometric Association. (n.d.). UV Protection: Protecting Your Eyes from Solar Radiation.

Digre KB et al. Shedding Light on Photophobia. Journal of Neuroophthalmology. 2012 Mar; 32(1): 68–81.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Photophobia.

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