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SALT LAKE CITY — Migraine headaches afflict 31 million Americans. For many, the pain is so severe it stalls their lives while they desperately seek relief.
But a doctor at the Moran Eye Center has developed a pair of glasses that really work for some patients.
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."
"Some people who get migraines have warning symptoms, called an aura, before the actual headache begins. An aura is a group of symptoms, including vision disturbances, that are a warning sign that a bad headache is coming."
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
She did not want to take medication because of her pregnancy. But she ran into an engineer on campus who helped design glasses for migraine patients.
"It actually helped tremendously," she said. "I started feeling better. It reduced my headaches."
According to Dr. Brad Katz, migraine is the most common neurologic disease there is. He is the University of Utah neuro-ophthalmologist who invented the coated lenses.
Eighty to 90 percent of migraine patients have light sensitivity, and the glasses block wavelengths of light that can trigger the headaches. He worked with a university photonics researcher to design the frames.
"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," he explained.
A few patients, like Moras, have tried them. Clinical trials begin next month.
"The change can be dramatic," he said. "Some people refused to give them back."
If the clinical trial goes well, the glasses could be a tremendous asset for many migraine sufferers, especially when you consider there are few approved treatments for nursing and pregnant women, and children.
Dr. Katz launched Axon Optics to develop and market the non-prescription 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.