Most everyone will have a headache from time to time. But for many, headaches are nearly a daily occurrence. When doctors are evaluating a patient who is complaining of headaches, there are many parts of the history needed. One of them is “when do get your headaches”. In many situations, the headaches are related to work. Sometimes the source of the problem from computer eyestrain, but the office lighting may actually be the culprit.
In most office settings, fluorescent lights are the norm. They are economical, provide good overall lighting, with no added heat. Traditional incandescent lights work by electrically heating up the filament inside the bulb. As the filament heats up, it emits light.
A fluorescent bulb does not have a filament and instead works by electronically stimulating the gas inside the bulb. The molecular changes that occur cause the enclosed gas to emit light. It doesn’t take much energy to excite the gas molecules and that’s why they are economical and relatively cool to the touch.
With the excitement of the molecules, the light inside the fluorescent tube actually flickers. Unless the tube is old, it flickers at a rate that is too fast for the human eye to see. But it flickers none the less. Sometimes if look beside the light instead of directly at the light, you can catch the flickering of the light. The brain has a small region that is responsible for fusing the flickering images into one so that we do not see the flickering of the light. For some patients, however, this ‘flicker fusion center’ may keep them seeing the flickering of the light, but not efficiently enough to prevent a headache. Also, patients with seizure disorders may be sensitive to the flickering of the light as it is thought that the parts of the brain responsible for ‘flicker fusion’ are connected to the parts of the brain responsible for the seizures.
Many studies have shows that if a patient had just a slight tint to their eyeglasses, or if they wore tinted contact lenses, the would no longer perceive the flickering of the light source. As a result, their complaints of headaches went away. So, if you’ve put up with headaches at work long enough, and it’s not your boss’ or your employee’s fault, if just may be the lights in the office. Something as simple as a slight tint in your eyeglasses or contact lenses, may be just what the doctor ordered.