For migraine sufferers, exposure to bright light can be debilitating, either triggering or exacerbating headaches.
But a certain spectrum of green light can help reduce or fend off light sensitivity in migraine-prone adults, according to researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
The researchers asked patients experiencing acute migraine attacks to report any change when exposed to different intensities of blue, green, amber and red light. Under high-intensity light – similar to a well-lit office – nearly 80 percent of patients reported their headaches intensified with exposure to all colors, except green. In addition, green light reduced pain by about 20 percent.
The inability to tolerate light can be disabling for migraine patients, researchers noted.
“More than 80 percent of migraine attacks are associated with and exacerbated by light sensitivity, leading many migraine sufferers to seek the comfort of darkness and isolate themselves from work, family and everyday activities,” said lead author Rami Burstein, academic director of the Comprehensive Headache Center at Beth Israel.
To understand why green light causes significantly less pain in migraine patients, Burstein and his colleagues designed experiments to measure the electrical signals generated by the retina and brain cortex in response to colors. They found that blue and red lights generated the largest signals in the retina and cortex; green light generated the smallest signals.
They also used animal models to study neurons in the brain’s thalamus. These neurons were found to be most responsive to blue light and least responsive to green light, explaining why the migraine brain responds favorably to green light.
Burstein is now working to develop an affordable light bulb that emits low-intensity green light, as well as affordable sunglasses that block all but a narrow band of green light.
Accidental overdose of acetaminophen drops
Efforts to get Americans to avoid overuse of acetaminophen, which can lead to liver damage, apparently are working.
Acetaminophen exposures – accidental or intentional – dropped significantly in recent years, according to data from the National Poison Data System, which tracks reports from U.S. poison control centers. It said exposures fell 24 percent between 2009 and 2013.
That’s considered significant because acetaminophen is so common that it’s easy to overdose, according to the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition, a group of health care and consumer organizations that operates the KnowYourDose.org website.
“The educational efforts of the last five years are having an impact,” said Dr. John Whyte, of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement. “Acetaminophen is widely used and it’s extremely important that we educate patients and consumers about how to take it safely.”
Acetaminophen, the most common active ingredient in U.S. medications, is found in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription medications, everything from Alka-Seltzer Plus to Tylenol. Taken in proper amounts according to label directions, it’s safe to use. But Americans may unwittingly consume far more than the recommended daily dosage – 4,000 milligrams in 24 hours – especially when taking several different medications containing the ingredient.
‘OB Nest’ for pregnant women
Do fewer prenatal visits yield happier pregnant women? As part of ongoing efforts to improve patient satisfaction for women with low-risk pregnancies, the Mayo Clinic recently tested a new program, called the “OB Nest.”
About 300 low-risk pregnant woman were assigned to a specific, individual nurse as a primary contact. Instead of the typical 12 to 14 prenatal visits, low-risk women and their partners received eight scheduled office visits. They were also given home monitoring kits for fetal heart rate and maternal blood pressure. In addition, they could take part in online conversations with other OB Nest participants and nurses.
The result: greater patient satisfaction, lower health care costs and more scheduling time for higher-risk pregnancies, according to a study by the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The study also noted that fewer office visits were easier on parents who might have to juggle work and family obligations to attend a dozen or more prenatal office visits, which were often simply routine check-ins. Instead, women had the ability – from home – to monitor their own blood pressure and their baby’s heartbeat.
Rather than treating pregnancy as an illness, Mayo obstetricians wanted “to reflect the normal, life-bringing event that it is, and … transform prenatal care into a wellness, patient-oriented experience,” said Dr. Yvonne Butler Tobah, the study’s lead author, in a statement.
The Mayo Clinic plans to test the OB Nest model on a larger group of low-risk mothers and eventually offer it as an option to all patients.