Home Avulux How to Help Patients With Photophobia: A Light Sensitivity Guide

How to Help Patients With Photophobia: A Light Sensitivity Guide

illustration of woman holding her head, closing eyes, against angry swirl of reds and purples, symbolizing photophobia
Image courtesy of Avulux.

Photophobia is an intolerance to light. Research conducted into light sensitivity and pain over the past decade sheds new light on this connection.

In particular, researchers found the specific cells that play a role in causing pain to those experiencing light sensitivity – they are called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), and namely melanopsin-secreting cells at the retina. Scientists also discovered that these photoreceptors are most affected by certain specific wavelengths of light in the visible light spectrum.


In other words, specific colors of light trigger larger, more irritable electrical signals in the brain. Melanopsin was found to be peak activated in1:

  • The upper blue light range, from 450nm to 500nm
  • The amber light range from 550nm to 600nm

A corroborating Harvard study found that painful light, shown to increase migraine-related headache pain, exists in the following ranges2:

  • Blue
  • Amber
  • Red

Green light was shown to incite less activity in the thalamus, the pain center of the brain, and could even potentially reduce pain in some people.

These findings have led the way to new developments for those who are most sensitive to reduce the impact of light on their lives – including the innovative and clinically proven Avulux Migraine & Light Sensitivity lens.


  1. Noseda R, Kainz V, Jakubowski M, et al. A neural mechanism for exacerbation of headache by light. Nat Neurosci. 2010;13(2):239–245. doi:10.1038/nn.2475

2. Rodrigo Noseda, Carolyn A. Bernstein, Rony-Reuven Nir, Alice J. Lee, Anne B. Fulton, Suzanne M. Bertisch, Alexandra Hovaguimian, Dean M. Cestari, Rodrigo Saavedra-Walker, David Borsook, Bruce L. Doran, Catherine Buettner, Rami Burstein, Migraine photophobia originating in cone-driven retinal pathways, Brain, Volume 139, Issue 7, July 2016, Pages 1971–1986

Read more about research into photophobia and pain here.

Read more WO stories on Avulux here.

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