Rachel Lowe, 50, (L) talks to Dr Coley King about her migraines as part of a street medicine program between Venice Family Clinic and St Joseph Homeless Day Center in Venice, Los Angeles, California, February 16, 2011. Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

People suffering from crippling migraines have something to cheer about. A new study has revealed that migraines reduce in severity when sufferers are exposed to a narrow band of green light. Most migraine sufferers find it difficult to even carry out daily activities during an attack.

Light makes it worse for them and they only want to take refuge in darkness. However, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School researchers have revealed that exposure to a pure wavelength green light significantly reduced a sufferers sensitivity to light, known as photophobia.

“These findings offer real hope to patients with migraines and a promising path forward for researchers and clinicians,” lead author Rami Burstein, PhD, Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine and Academic Director of the Comprehensive Headache Center at BIDMC, as well as the John Hedley-Whyte Professor of Anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School (HMS) said in a statement.

According to the researchers, a narrow band of green light intensifies migraine much less than all other light colours. It can also reduce the headache. Even though photophobia is not as debilitating as the headache, migraine sufferers’ incapacity to handle light can be disabling.

The researchers asked patients with acute migraine to report changes in headaches when exposed to various light colours such as red, green, blue and amber. At high intensity light, nearly 80 percent of the patients studied reported worsening of their headaches, except in a green light surrounding. Moreover, scientists were surprised to find that the green light reduced pain by about 20 percent.

Researchers saw that green light generated the smallest electrical signals in cortex as well as retina. This they found after they measured the magnitude of the signals the retina generated and brain cortex of sufferers in response to a particular colour of light.

Burstein will soon be working to develop a light bulb that only emits a narrow-band wavelength, pure green light at low intensity. He will also be working on migraine sunglasses that will block all light except this narrow green light band to help migraine patients.