Sunglasses to Help Prevent Migraines and Headaches

Good sunglasses can guard against attacks and protect your eyes, too.

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 us who suffer from migraine and headache pain. Not only are sunglasses vital to help us avoid migraine and headache attacks, but they're also super-important for good eye health.

However, you need to shop wisely for sunglasses, and then remember to actually wear them once you've purchased them. 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, since:

  • bright sunlight and reflected light can trigger a migraine or headache — some studies show that up to 60% of migraine attacks are triggered by bright light or glare
  • migraineurs are often somewhat photophobic even when we don't have a migraine
  • when we do have a headache or migraine, sunglasses are often helpful even under normal, indoor lighting conditions

Migraine disorder is the most common causes of photophobia, which is eye sensitivity or discomfort in bright light. Up to 80% 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.

Therefore, sunglasses can represent an important part of your migraine or headache prevention tool kit.

Additional Benefits of Sunglasses

The 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 that problem worse.

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. Your sunglasses should have these characteristics:

  • good optical-grade lenses.
  • a coating that blocks ultraviolet light in the UVA an UVB ranges (if you don't have this special coating, the dark tint will the dark tint will actually make your exposure to the UV rays worse because it allows the pupils to dilate and allow 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, you might want to consider ordering a pair of prescription sunglasses with these characteristics, since that might make you more likely to wear them.

Don't Neglect Your Eyes

Almost everyone with headaches or migraine disease depends on sunglasses, but it's critical to shop wisely when you're buying them — 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 every 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 good sunglasses on kids and teaching them the importance of eye protection as the kids 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.


American Optometric Association. Protecting Your Eyes from Solar Radiation fact sheet. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.

Digre KB et al. Shedding Light on Photophobia. Journal of Neuroophthalmology. 012 Mar; 32(1): 68–81.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Photophobia fact sheet. Accessed Nov. 22, 2015.

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