I work in a law firm in Los Angeles and would like information on the prevention of color/light/pattern induced migraine headaches. Currently I observe the causes of symptoms and then change the preconditions. Unfortunately, by the time this has been accomplished, the subjects’ migraine has already begun and can’t be reversed. Because causes vary from person to person, is there a way to monitor conditions before an episode is triggered?
When I do an ergonomic assessment for an employee who is having migraines, I look at the lighting. In the office, are there overhead florescent lights with the standard plastic covers? At the desktop, are there mounted task lights and is the monitor positioned under or beside the light (and the light is on)? Is there a window behind the monitor? Then I start to look at the work station set-up: Are any of the monitors for these folks the CRT style (as opposed to flat screens)? Are the monitors raised too high or positioned too far away? Does the employee need to twist to see the monitor or use the keyboard? These are all "light" related issues.
The standard plastic covers create a harsh light that is scattered and not focused. Parabolic lenses (they come in various sizes) actually help drop the light straight down and make it less harsh and more useable.
A mounted task light above or beside or behind the monitor can back light or wash out the monitor, increasing eye strain. A window behind the monitor will also back light the monitor. A desk top task light with an adjustable neck could be of benefit instead of the mounted task light. The adjustable neck allows the employee to focus the light right on the hard copy work and keep most of the glare off the monitor. If a monitor must be positioned with a window behind it, horizontal blinds, turned so the sunlight is directed up will help.
The CRT monitors work with a flicker – like the old televisions. This flicker increases eye strain because the eyes need to adjust with the flicker. Flat screen monitors do not have the flicker. The height of the monitor should be set to a position where the employee with no correction in eye sight looks at or near the top line of the screen. For those who wear bi- or multi- focal lenses, the position is to be able to look just over the top of a flat screen (at the top of the monitor box of a CRT). Generally, the distance should be about arm’s length away for 15 – 19" monitors.
Eye strain can be contributory to migraines as can other issues. You may try some or all of these options to see if they help.
Migraine headaches have many causes and it’s difficult to attribute them solely to lighting (although there is that component). Some contributing factors for these are: genetics, seratonin uptake, hormone levels (women suffer more than men), brainstem dysfunction, and many more….
A true migraine needs to be diagnosed by a physician; I see many of my patients say that they have "migraines" but may just have occasional severe headaches, which are not truly migraines.
True, lighting patterns can definitely trigger a migraine but more likely a flahing light pattern will do this (thus the link to CRT displays). However, with most modern CRTs (no, that’s not an oxymoron!), the refresh rate is well above that which would create a problem.
Dr. Jeffrey Anshel
Corporate Vision Consulting
I don’t know if you’re still looking for a solution, but my company just renovated our offices. We had several people who were getting migranes from the fluorescent lighting also and so they bought fluorescent light diffusers. They do a great job at taking away the glare and they also have cloud or tree designs on them that make you feel like you’re seeing the sky when you look up. That helps when there’s not much natural light in the office.
These diffusers have reduced the migranes that my coworkers used to have, so that’s definitely a credit to these panels. I asked the manager and he said they’re something like "skypanels" or something, but he did some shopping around on google to find them.
Let me know if this helps! Good luck!
Another possibility to this issue is the type of ballast used in your overhead fluorescent lighting system. Traditionally, these ballasts have been the electromagnetic type, operating at 60Hz. Studies done in the UK years ago indicated that these types of ballasts seemed to have adverse health effects on about 25% of the user population, resulting in nausea, fatigue, headaches and even migranes. One study even suggested that this was the cause of sick building syndrome. More recently, high-frequency electronic ballasts have become available, which operate at over 20kHz, and which apparently eliminate these symptoms. Many offices have switched over to this type by now, largely because they have an energy savings of about 30% over the older type. You may want to find out which type of ballast is installed in your system – if it is indeed the older type, this might be the source of the problem. For more detail on this, try: http://www.scif.com/safety/OfficeLighting.html. Hope this helps.
Jeff Tiedeman, CSP, CIE, ARM
State Compensation Insurance Fund of California
Helen Chandler, CIE
Safety and Health Services
State Compensation Insurance Fund
303 Second Street Suite 205 South
San Francisco CA 94107-3614
PHONE: (415) 975-2406
FAX: (415) 975-2444
You have to have your eyes checked as well. Because it might not be because of the lights or lamps or whatever but it could be your eyes. You may need a reading or an eye glasses or you need to change if you aleady have one. I have this issue before since I work alsmost 15 hours a day and is really on the computer. I have the lights replaced in my office as well as in my home office and it did not resolve my problem until I had my eyes checked and found out that I need to change eye glasses.
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