By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – For the vast majority of migraine sufferers, bright lights can be debilitating, but as Dr. Mallika Marshall reports, researchers in Boston have discovered that not all light is created equal.

Naomi Paisley-Flango, 42, of Medford has had migraines since she was a teenager, and like more than 80% of migraine sufferers, bright lights make them worse.

“I close the drapes in my house. I don’t go to stores where I know everything is going to be bright,” explains Naomi.

But is all light to blame? Harvard Medical School researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center recruited migraine patients, including Naomi, to find out.

The subjects were brought into a dark room both when they had a migraine and when they did not, and they were shown four different colors: blue, red, amber and green. What researchers found was surprising.

They found that blue and red light made the headaches worse but green light actually reduced the headaches by 20%.

Rami Burstein, PhD is a headache expert and lead author of the study. “What we hear from patients is that green light is calming,” says Burstein. “It’s comfortable. It’s relaxing. It’s happy. Whereas the other colors were making them anxious and angry and upset.”

The researchers also discovered blue and red lights generated the largest signals in the eye and brain. Green light generated the smallest.

“Green was like a deep breath,” Naomi remembers. “It was like a sigh.”

Burstein is now developing a special light bulb and sunglasses that can filter out all colors except for green. He says right now the costs would be prohibitive, so the challenge is now to make the light bulb and sunglasses affordable for the millions of Americans who suffer from migraines, like Naomi.

“If I was able to use a pair of glasses or something that would help me get my things done even when I have a migraine, that would change my life,” says Naomi.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

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