The wavelength of light causing photophobia in migraine and tension-type headache between attacks

Headache. 2000 Mar;40(3):194-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1526-4610.2000.00028.x.


Objective: To ascertain the wavelength of light that patients with migraine and tension-type headache find uncomfortable between attacks.

Background: Photophobia is an abnormal perceptual sensitivity to light experienced by most patients with headache during and, also, between attacks.

Methods: We examined the discomfort threshold to light of low, medium, and high wavelengths in a group of patients with migraine (n=21), patients with tension-type headache (n=19), and healthy controls (n=21).

Results: The results indicate that the migraine group had significantly lower discomfort thresholds at the low (P=.001) and high (P=.031) wavelengths compared with both the tension-type headache and control groups; the latter two groups had similar average discomfort levels at these two wavelengths. With the medium wavelength, the control group had significantly higher discomfort thresholds than the migraine (P=.002) and tension-type headache (P=.031) groups; the latter two groups had similar discomfort levels at this wavelength. With unfiltered (white) light, the migraine group had the lowest discomfort threshold and the control group the highest (P=.026), whereas the tension-type headache group had an intermediate discomfort threshold.

Conclusions: There were significant differences between migraineurs, patients with tension-type headache, and healthy controls in the wavelengths that are uncomfortable between attacks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Differential Threshold
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Photophobia / etiology*
  • Tension-Type Headache / complications*