I get asked almost daily which migraine glasses are best and what the difference is between Axon Optics vs. Theraspecs, and comparing both of them to Migraine Shields. In this post, I’ll also answer how FL 41 glasses differ from blue light blocking glasses both in tint and effectiveness, as well as how each brand is unique in lenses, prescription, and frames.
Throughout the years, I’ve tried many different brands of glasses for migraine. Over 4 years ago, when I was officially diagnosed with Vestibular Migraine, all my work was done on a computer. For 8-10 hours a day, I’d squint at watch designs, tiny specs, and loads of excel worksheets under the florescent lights of my office. It was a complete nightmare! I used to come home and just want to keep my eyes closed the rest of the night for relief. That’s when my neurologist recommended FL-41 lenses, which have the pink tint. My first pair was Axon, and although they did help, I think my trigger load was just too high to see a lot of benefits.
Once I left my job and started working on Dizzy Cook, I was able to control my environment a little bit better. I am still in front of screens for most of the day between writing posts, editing photos, and answering questions, but I’m able to take breaks more often or spend a day cooking if screens are just too much.
On the days I am on the computer, I can tell such a difference when I wear my migraine glasses. Not only do my eyes feel more rested and less strained, but it really does decrease any build up of dizziness. Sometimes if I go without them, I can feel my brain start to get frazzled and my eyes ache.
With vestibular migraine especially, stores like Target or the grocery store can trigger dizziness. I used to go with a hat, glasses, and ear plugs just to try to make it through. Not only is it the bright lights, but also the way the shelves are lined, the plethora of different designs on packaging, and the overall background noise. These types of glasses can be helpful for this experience as well, and I’ll go into detail on that within the breakdowns.
Full disclosure, I’ve worked with all 3 brands in some capacity. All brands have gifted me lenses to trial at some point and I make affiliate commissions from sales using my code with Axon and Migraine Shields. None of them have paid for this post in any way - it is all my personal opinion.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Blue light blocking glasses are not created equal. So often I see people order cheap ones from Amazon which don’t specify what range of blue light they block, or how much. You could be blocking blue light that’s not even in the harmful range, below 420nm, and it’s a complete waste of money. The highest range of energy with blue light is between 400-440nm, and this is usually what is associated with digital eye strain. Above that, between 440-500nm, is what effects the sleep/wake cycle. I actually see this range varied on different sites - some say it’s between 460-500nm.
Either way, anything above this range of 440-460nm can actually be considered “good” blue light because it controls the secretion of melatonin. This is essentially the type of light that makes you feel more awake, happy, and energized. In fact, light therapy that’s used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is used within this range.
So before you set out to buy glasses that block out the blue light in a higher range, like the FL-41 lenses, consider this in your purchase. Will these be used during working hours or do you prefer to use them before bed?
What makes Migraine Shields a little bit different is they are blue light glasses intended for migraine, but without the pink FL-41 tint. The tint is like a very faint yellow, which I don’t really notice once I put them on.
Their lenses come in two styles, the Everyday Lens, which is full protection that blocks 45% of blue light at 455nm which is what digital devices are. This is actually 17x more protective than other blue light lenses and is good for everyday use.
This lens is a little less protective than the Episodic lens. You can see it's got a little bit of a yellow tint to it. This blocks 59% of blue light and is 20x more effective than other blue light lenses.
I prefer the everyday lens for my work as the episodic lens is just a little dark for me. Just like the name says, I find it best for “everyday” to prevent any attacks associated with digital eye strain. If you’re looking for something to wear during attacks that’s slightly darker, the episodic might be best for you.
- The Pros - I love Migraine Shields for computer work cause I know it gives me good protection against blue light from my devices, but doesn’t cause heavy color distortion. This is wonderful on the days where I need to edit photos or view my work without a pink hue. The Melora fit my face really well and don’t slide down my nose, while also being fairly light in weight. They’re also slightly less expensive than other brands, especially when discounted, running about $110-120 in price. Often they run deals which will be even lower. You can get them in prescription reader lenses.
- The Cons - If you are severely light sensitive or need to block an upper range of light that would affect your sleep schedule, you may need something darker. Often people find the FL-41 (pink) tint to be therapeutic, and this is the tint that has been studied particularly for migraine patients. They also currently don’t carry regular prescription lenses or glasses that fit over prescription lenses.
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FL 41 Glasses
This actually goes back to several studies, but one interesting one is through Dr. Burstein, who you may have seen on the Migraine World Summit discussing Green Light Therapy and the Allay Lamp. His research team found that the color most comfortable for those with light sensitivity is between 480 and 590nm, which is a green hue.
In 2016 Dr. Bradley Katz set out to create a lens that blocked 480nm of light, which his research showed was most irritating for people with light sensitivity, but without being super dark or having a significant distortion. This is how Axon Optics came to be developed in 2011.
FL 41 tinted glasses have been studied for people with migraine more specifically than blue light blocking lenses. While the findings are significant, the studies are also done in part by parties who are associated with the manufacturing of FL 41 lenses.
Axon uses FL-41 tint to reduce light sensitivity and symptoms during a migraine attack. In their survey, 24% of participants had fewer headache days, and a 38% reduction in light sensitivity. These lenses come in Indoor, Outdoor, and Transition and they come with an anti-glare coating. Axon lenses are on the lighter pink side for FL-41 lenses. Although they don't block the same bandwidth of blue light that MigraineShields does, their tints are comparable in lightness, so good for wearing on the computer or during the day if you don’t mind the pink tint.
Axon lenses block between 480nm and 520nm (although the exact amounts are unclear as they say they do let some light in), but the higher end of the spectrum when compared to blue light lenses. They were actually the original makers of FL-41 lenses and founded by neuro-opthalmologist, Dr. Katz, so they have some reliable research behind them from his own studies.
- The Pros - Axon is a solid lens for those who like an FL-41 pink tint and find it soothing. It's fairly easy to still see certain colors when working on the computer and their frames are super stylish and flattering. They have a ton of frame and prescription options! They're also the only ones to offer transition lenses. Because they were one of the first FL-41 lenses on the market, they have a lot of research and physicians affiliated with them.
- The Cons - Since they're lighter in tint, if you're severely light sensitive, you may want something darker to start with. While they do block a portion of blue light, their main focus is on this higher range of 480+nm that has been shown to aggravate migraine. Therefore you may find them more helpful when out and about or on devices in the evening hours.
Even with the light tint and nice frames, I did get made fun of at my old workplace when I wore these. I think this is just the nature of wearing pink lenses and not a con for them in particular. They’re the most expensive brand at $189.
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TheraSpecs also uses FL 41 tint for their lenses, but their tint is a little more pink/reddish. They were developed by a Migraine community member who understands what it's like to live with this illness. They claim to block up to 25x more blue light (up to 80%) than other blue light blocking glasses at the higher level of 480nm.
TheraSpecs has the darkest tint of all 3 lenses and I believe this is why they're extremely popular with the chronic migraine community. At the last Migraine World Summit event I attended, everyone was wearing the Audrey wrap glasses. These also come in Indoor and Outdoor lenses, which are polarized sunglasses.
In addition to the FL-41 tint, they also offer polarized outdoor lenses which are 100% UVA/UVB blocking and offer glare protection. Their glasses are in the lower range at $119-149 and they will occasionally offer discounts!
- The Pros - TheraSpecs have a much darker reddish-pink tint, so if you're used to wearing sunglasses inside everywhere (which is not good as it makes you more sensitive to light over time), this is a great product to transition to. They're really effective in big box stores like Target or the grocery store, especially during an attack. They also offer a “wrap” style which fits over prescription lenses. I’ve also heard wonderful things about their polarized outdoor lenses, I’ve just never got to try them myself! They’re one of the more affordable brands as well, especially when they have a discount code.
- The Cons - Their pro is also their con sometimes. These are more dark and colorful, they often make it difficult for me to work on photo edits with good clarity. I also sometimes feel like my screen is more distorted when wearing these. I wish they had more fashionable frame styles to choose from! The super pink tint makes me self conscious sometimes. Usually if I’m wearing these, it is always a time I don’t want to talk about my migraine disorder and just want to get in and out of a store.
So Which Ones are Best?
All 3 brands are really solid companies and I have owned and used all of them in my 5 years of dealing with chronic and episodic vestibular migraine. The truth is, they’re all very different and good for specific activities.
At this point in my migraine journey, it’s also a little difficult for me to compare them. I’m more episodic now and really only deal with eye/head pressure and dizziness when I’m on the computer too long, whereas before I was trying to solve a mountain of issues like vertigo, derealization, etc. with FL-41 lenses.
- I currently find the most relief from my dizzy symptoms and eye strain specifically caused by the computer with blue light blockers from Migraine Shields. This probably has more to do with the amount of screen time for my job. I spend so much time squinting while editing photos and writing posts that this is what works best for me. These also tend to make me the least self conscious of all three brands so I'm inclined to wear them more.
- Where I see the most benefit with Axon is when worn out to a restaurant or for a workplace where your work won’t be skewed by a tint. They're also really good for evenings when you're scrolling on your phone but need to "turn off" your brain.
- I think TheraSpecs are best for those with really severe attacks as an alternative to wearing sunglasses, or for super bright big box stores. Overall, I think FL 41 tint is probably a better place to start if you experience chronic, 24/7 everyday symptoms.
In conclusion, finding the right migraine glasses involves testing them yourself. All these companies offer fantastic return policies, so order a few and then return the ones that aren't a fit for you. I hope they don’t hate me for saying that, but it’s truly the only way to know what will work best. What suits me best, may not suit you at all. I do hope I offered a little more insight into the differences between all 3.
A Note on Sunglasses…
The most important thing to note, and why I added my sunglasses photo, is wearing sunglasses all the time indoors can actually increase your light sensitivity. Therefore you may actually be making your symptoms worse in the long run for short term relief.
Investing in one of these migraine glasses may have good long term effects on decreasing that sensitivity overall.
More Posts on Migraine Glasses
For more information on these lenses for migraine, check out the following posts.