Glasses developed at University of Utah may help migraine sufferers

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22 2013 12:50 p.m. MST

Melany Moras suffered her first migraine last spring when she was pregnant. She didn't want to take medications for the pain. She tried the special glasses and said they helped reduce the pain.

Eric Betts, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Doctors at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah may have found a natural way to get rid of painful migraines: specially tinted glasses.

Melany Moras suffered her first migraine headache last spring when she was pregnant. It lasted an entire weekend.

"I just couldn't get out of bed because I felt so sick," she said. "I was hiding in my closet because I couldn't really be out. I was dizzy. It was really bad."

One day, she ran into University of Utah engineer Steve Blair who works on optical filters and helped design glasses for migraine patients. He suggested she try a pair of special glasses. She was skeptical but willing to try anything because she didn’t want to take medication.

"It actually helped tremendously," she said. "I started feeling better. It reduced my headaches."

According to U. neuro-ophthalmologist Dr. Brad Katz, migraine is the most common neurologic disease there is. Nine percent of men and 8 percent of women suffer migraines in this country, according to Katz. Thats about 31 million people.

“For some patients it’s something they might not even take an aspirin for, and for other patients, they’re barfing in the emergency room, and then there’s everything in between,” Katz said.

Migraine suffers can be in so much pain that they miss work, social activities and time with friends and family.

Eighty percent to 90 percent of migraine patients have light sensitivity, and the glasses block wavelengths of light that can trigger the headaches.

"This particular frame we've chosen has a more form-fitting frame so that it prevents any ambient light from coming in around the sides," Katz said. They are also lightweight and don’t press against the face or temples.

A few patients, like Moras, have tried them. Clinical trials begin next month.

"The change can be dramatic," Katz said. "Some people have refused to give them back."

If the clinical trial goes well, the glasses could benefit many migraine sufferers, especially nursing and pregnant women, and children because the FDA has approved a few options for them.

Katz launched Axon Optics to develop and market the nonprescription glasses, which could be ready for patients next year.

"I've been inventing stuff since I was a little kid, so I was just waiting for the right thing to come along," he said.

Those interested in being part of the clinical trial need to have been diagnosed with migraines and daily headaches. For more information on the clinical trial go to axonoptics.com.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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