FL-41: Effective Migraine Treatment or Just Hype?
The people in the migraine community have each other’s backs. We know the frustration of calling out of work with a migraine, only to be met with doubt and disbelief. We know the anxiety of going to the movie theater or a restaurant where music might be on full blast. And whenever something new is on the market to help migraines, we know how important it is to share that information.
Enter migraine glasses. If you know some friends or colleagues with migraines, you might have heard about these. Migraine glasses, or FL-41 glasses, have a rose tint and are meant to block out the UV rays that cause migraines.
That sounds all well and good, but are they really that spectacular? Let’s dive into the facts, the studies, and the hype behind migraine glasses.
What Are “FL-41” Glasses?
Before we dive into the results, let’s talk about the origin of these glasses. In the 1980s, Dr. Arnold Wilkins of Cambridge University had patients who were experiencing eye strain and headaches from the overhead fluorescent lights. To help them, he started to develop an eyeglass tint to help reduce what he hypothesized as specific fluorescent light wavelengths. His team named the tint “Fluorescent-41,” or “FL-41.”
They took off! Many students reported relief, including a woman who had so much discomfort from the lights that she had to leave jobs because the lights exacerbated her photophobia and triggered migraine attacks. (We all know that feeling.)
This is where the scientific work on FL-41 glasses started.
The Science Behind Migraine Glasses
Since the 80s, scientists have gone back to migraine glasses again and again. Here are some of the results of what they have found:
At the Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre researchers looked at FL-41 glasses for children. The study evaluated the effectiveness of both FL-41 brown-red tinted and blue-tinted lenses over a four-month period in a group of 20 children who were clinically diagnosed with migraines. Even though both lenses reduced their migraine frequency, the brown-red lenses fared far better with the frequency reducing from 6.2 migraines per month down to 1.6 per month.
Additional research showed that while the 1980s version of the FL-41 glasses were doing well, they could be improved. Dr. Bradley Katz, neuro-ophthalmologist, at the University of Utah’s hospital, was on the case. His inspiration came from a research article that detailed new discoveries about cells in the eye. These cells, Katz thought, may contribute to photophobia.
In the late 2000s, Dr. Katz altered the design of the lens to be lighter with a more rose hue opposed to the earlier red-brown version. He then conducted a study using the new version on patients who had a known light sensitive condition called blepharospasm (BEB). This particular condition caused involuntary squeezing of the eyesOverall, experiments on these altered tints showed very positive results. Patients saw an improvement in their conditions, as the amount of involuntary eye movements decreased. The patients who wore his new rose-colored lens had significantly better results than the patients who wore the grey lenses.
In 2010, doctors at Harvard University began research on headaches and migraine attacks. Their findings proved the effect that light has on migraines, even among people who were blind. They also continued to prove FL-41 glasses could reduce migraine attacks by reducing photophobia symptoms.
This brings us up to this decade. In 2016, Dr. Katz decided to keep improving his lenses further. His new lenses helped to block more harmful rays without darkness and distortion. Katz and his lenses are sold throughout the country. Like in the 1980s, many migraine sufferers have found significant relief from these rose-tinted glasses.
Do You Have Photophobia?
The development of FL-41 glasses came from one specific phenomenon: photophobia.
You may not think that you suffer from photophobia, but the truth may surprise you. In the past, surveys have revealed that many migraine sufferers didn’t know that they had photophobia.
Symptoms of photophobia include:
Sensitivity or aversion to light
Brightly colored spots when you open or close your eyes
Frequent need to squint
Tears from your eyes
Excessively dry eyes
Before trying out FL-41 glasses, talk to your doctor about photophobia. A discussion about photophobia may be able to help you understand your condition. Not all people with photophobia have migraines; not all people with migraines have photophobia. Know what is affecting your life before you move on with finding a solution.
Why Not Just Wear Sunglasses?
Rose-tinted migraine glasses are cute, but many migraine sufferers have already been wearing glasses for migraines: sunglasses. Can’t you just block out bright rays and call it a day?
Sunglasses may provide short-term relief, sure. Advocates for FL-41 glasses praise the ability to wear FL-41 glasses inside, outside, in a movie theatre - you name it. The transition from taking your sunglasses off can be pretty intense. FL-41 glasses only block out some rays, so taking them off won’t be a huge change for users.
Other studies show that wearing sunglasses inside may increase the intensity of your photophobia. Whether or not you decide to try FL-41 glasses, you may want to evaluate how often you are wearing sunglasses to find migraine relief. It may not be working in your favor.
FL-41 Glasses Can Reduce Migraine Symptoms - But They Won’t Cure Them
Over 80% of participants in a more recent study reported that FL-41 glasses reduced light and headache impact. Transitioning from the light to the dark is easier, migraines pop up less frequently, and you get some sweet compliments on your glasses. But FL-41 glasses are just one way to reduce migraines.
Everyone has different migraine symptoms. No two migraine sufferers are alike. So test out FL-41 glasses. Just don’t neglect other ways to reduce your migraines:
Recording and tracking triggers and symptoms to know your migraines better
Avoiding processed foods, foods with nitrates, and other foods that could possibly trigger migraine
Cutting caffeine and alcohol out of your diet
Diffusing lavender oil or peppermint oil throughout your room
Try yoga, meditation, or biofeedback
Do What Works For You
Whether you are buying FL-41 glasses, switching your diet, or going on medication, talk to a healthcare professional first. All solutions to migraines come with side effects or things to consider. FL-41 glasses are no different.
Interested in learning more about how exactly FL-41 glasses work? Click here for more stats, benefits, and scientific studies.
A great thanks to John Martinez (from Axon Optics) for writing this guest post!