Quantitative thresholds for discomfort and pain with monocular and binocular light stimuli were measured in 67 controls and 67 migraine patients (37 migraine with aura and 30 migraine without aura). Patients were more photophobic during attack than outside attack (p < 0.03), and they were more sensitive to light than controls even between attacks (p < or = 0.0001). We found no differences in light sensitivity between migraine with aura and migraine without aura (p > or = 0.93). Unilateral pain affected light sensitivity on both sides. When asked with a questionnaire, 74% of patients answered that they were sensitive to light outside attack and 100% were sensitive during attack. Pain thresholds were generally lower among sensitive than non-sensitive patients (p = 0.004), indicating some agreement between subjective opinion and objective measurements of photophobia. Photophobia seems to be an intrinsic property of migraineurs. It is increased by migraine pain, but seems to be unrelated to migraine characteristics such as nausea, severity of attacks, pain character and pain laterality.