Migraines: avoiding light mostly the wrong therapeutic approach

Migraines: avoiding light mostly the wrong therapeutic approach

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Visual disturbances, nausea, freezing, numbness, and all this in combination with pounding headaches that can hardly be endured: In Germany alone, around six to eight million people suffer from migraines. Those affected are advised to avoid light in the event of an acute attack. But that could be wrong, according to a headache expert.

Migraine patients are very sensitive to light
Migraine is a very common pain disorder that leads to massive impairments of quality of life and loss of social and professional life for many sufferers. Patients experience massive headaches, which occur like a seizure, and a number of other complaints such as dizziness, visual disturbances, freezing, nausea and vomiting. The disease is considered incurable and the exact triggers are not yet known. According to health experts, there are various triggers that can trigger headache attacks. Bad weather or stress and lack of sleep are part of this.

Hypersensitivity to smells, noise or light is a common side effect of migraines. Patients become literally afraid of light during an attack and sometimes show photophobia. Light stimuli can also trigger a headache attack. Even normal daylight is often perceived as unbearable, which is why migraine sufferers withdraw into dark rooms during an attack and sometimes avoid light itself between attacks. Many doctors also advise patients to avoid brightness during the attacks, but according to an Austrian research team, this could be wrong.

"Avoidance of light disadvantageous"
As reported on the website of the Medical University of Vienna (MedUni), a team of researchers at the university is currently investigating new therapeutic approaches in a project of the Science Fund FWF to treat photosensitivity, which is extremely detrimental to those affected. According to the experts, this avoidance strategy is also one of the medical recommendations for dealing with migraines, but it could be harmful. "However, it is now suspected that avoiding light is disadvantageous because it could further increase the sensitivity to light, the so-called photophobia," said headache expert Christian Wöber from the University Clinic for Neurology in Vienna (MedUni Vienna / AKH).

Sustainable ways of dealing with light sensitivity
This is comparable to people who suffer from vertigo or claustrophobia and avoid anxiety-causing situations - but do not solve the problem. As part of the “Photophobia for migraines” study, the researchers are therefore investigating whether there are other, and above all, sustainable ways of dealing with light sensitivity in migraines. According to her information, initial studies show that not avoiding light, but vice versa, desensitizing the brain to light stimuli could be the better strategy. Those affected go through week-long training sessions in which the brain is supposed to get used to bright or normal light using "flickering light". "With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the current research project will provide the first brain function data on the best possible strategy," explained Roland Beisteiner, fMRI expert. Both approaches are said to be investigated - light exposure and light deprivation - on migraine sufferers and on people without migraines. “It is still unclear whether the brain will really become less sensitive through desensitization, ie treatment with light. If so, that would be a completely new therapeutic approach, ”said the researchers.

Natural remedies for migraines
Research has been able to find a lot of helpful information for migraines in the past few years. It is now known that the long-term use of painkillers can lead to more seizures. If the symptoms are not too severe, home remedies for migraines can sometimes help. For example, according to experts, patients have the so-called feverfew, a herbal medicine available to relieve or prevent the symptoms. And just recently, a study confirmed that cannabis can help fight migraines. In addition to various drugs, non-drug therapies are available to prevent migraines. Relaxation exercises to reduce stress, such as yoga or progressive muscle relaxation, are recommended here. (ad)

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Video: Chronic Daily Headache - Mayo Clinic


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