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Researchers have found that between 19 and 53 per cent of those with extended exposure to their personal computers or laptop screen suffer headaches as a frequent side effect. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The next time you get a migraine attack, don’t just pop a pill.

Consider eliminating other triggers — your computer screen, mobile phone, or any bright, flickering light around you — and tweaking your lifestyle, doctors said.

Migraine sufferers have been suffering from even more attacks these days because of their desk jobs that require them to stare at computer screens for hours at a time.

Dr Mohammad Al Kashef

“That can put a real strain on your eyes. Eye problems caused by computer use fall under the heading ‘computer vision syndrome’. It isn’t one specific problem. Instead, it includes a whole range of eye strain and pain,” Dr Mohammad Gamal Al Kashef, Specialist Neurologist, Prime Hospital, told Gulf News.

Research shows between five and nine out of 10 people who work on a computer have at least some symptoms.

But it’s not only working adults who are affected. Even kids who use tables and computers for hours on end could get affected too if the lighting and their posture are less than ideal.

“Researchers have found that between 19 per cent and 53 per cent of those with extended exposure to their personal computers or laptop screen suffer headaches as a frequent side effect. In many cases, recurring headache symptoms lasted a week or more,” Dr Al Kashef said.

And because migraines can be severe, debilitating, and uncomfortable, people with migraines have to be more mindful when exposed to different kinds of bright light.

Migraine sufferers are more visually sensitive compared to the rest of the population. So triggers could range from the brightness and contrast of screens, indoor lighting, viewing distance, duration of exposure, flicker frequency, blue light exposure, among others.

Dr Rajshekher Garikapati

“Screen-induced migraines are very common in the UAE. Some 20 per cent of the population in general have the genetic tendency for migraine. It is a slightly complex disorder. It’s a dysfunction of certain neurons, some parts of the brain, then you get some bodily complaints,” Dr Rajshekher Garikapati, Specialist Neurology, Aster Hospital, Mankhool, told Gulf News.

Janice Ponce de Leon/Gulf News

“People think migraine is only about the headache but there are these additional autonomic symptoms also like sweating, sometimes palpitation, weakness of a part of limb, vomiting. And these also cause a lot of discomfort and dysfunctions. That’s one kind of disability,” he added.

But when is the condition a cause for alarm?

Dr Al Kashef said patients should see their doctor if their migraines start to affect their daily life. If they experience pain around the eyes or ears, or if they have multiple headaches in a month that last for several hours or days.

Any significant changes in the routine migraines specifically on the frequency, duration of individual attack, location of the headache, character of the pain, and associated complaints are considered red flags, Dr Garikapati said.

He advises that aside from taking pain killers, frequent breaks from the screen, sufferers should also consider changing their lifestyle.

“There are a lot of things we can do to avoid all the problems. The lifestyle changes that we can do have more to do with the mind rather than the body. Meditation, simple yoga exercises and spending less time with devices. These alternatives will help,” Dr Garikapati said.

How to prevent screen-induced migraines:

  • Rest the eyes every 20 minutes. A simple technique is to focus at an object about 20 feet away for around 20 seconds. This is commonly referred to as the 20-20-20 rule and helps the eye muscles a change in tautness by focusing in the distance.
  • Use a protective screen for glare over the computer screen. Simply reducing the brightness and contrast can also help to some degree. Try to avoid working on a bright computer screen in a dark room.
  • Always use prescription spectacles when necessary. Even if images on the screen seem clear, the eye may be strained by not using corrective eye wear.
  • Eye dryness is a contributor to eye strain and can be easily relieved with blinking more often. However, this may not be enough and where necessary eye drops for lubrication (artificial tears) may be used.
  • Use an ergonomically-designed chair for sitting in front of the computer and try to position the screen about 15 to 20 degrees below eye level. Avoid stooping.