A daily dose of green light is being tested in the U.S. as a new way to tackle migraines.
While bright light typically worsens the pounding headaches that blight the lives of up to 25 per cent of British women and 10 per cent of men, green light may, intriguingly, have the opposite effect.
Classed among the most disabling conditions by the World Health Organisation, migraines can take three days to pass and cause 25 million work and school days to be lost in the UK each year.
The most common symptom, a throbbing pain on one side of the head, can be accompanied by nausea and sickness, increased sensitivity to light or noise, sweating, stomach pain and diarrhoea.
While bright light typically worsens the pounding headaches that blight the lives of up to 25 per cent of British women and 10 per cent of men, green light may, intriguingly, have the opposite effect
The exact cause of migraines isn’t known, but they are thought to be due to changes in chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain. Genes may play a role, and some migraines are associated with triggers, from flashing lights and stress to foods or drinks (although food triggers are quite rare).
Painkillers and drugs called triptans can help reverse chemical changes in the brain. And anti-emetics are also used to relieve nausea. Now, researchers are studying whether green light could provide a drug-free option.
In 2016, researchers at Harvard University in the U.S. exposed patients to different coloured lights. With bright light usually worsening migraines, leading to sufferers seeking the solace of a darkened room, it wasn’t surprising the blue, amber and red lights all intensified the headaches.
Green light, however, reduced the pain by 20 per cent. Further experiments revealed green light generates smaller signals in the retina, the layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye, than other colours.
Cells in the thalamus, an area of the brain that processes information from the eye, also react less to green light.
The thalamus plays a key role as a processing centre in pain conditions, including migraine.
With bright light usually worsening migraines, leading to sufferers seeking the solace of a darkened room, it wasn’t surprising the blue, amber and red lights all intensified the headaches. Green light, however, reduced the pain by 20 per cent
The finding led to the development of a battery-powered lamp that emits the low-intensity pure green light found to be most effective.
Now, in a new trial at Vedanta Research in North Carolina, 250 migraine patients will use the lamp for at least 30 minutes a day for six weeks, while noting how many headaches they have and their severity.
Scientists hope the study will show if the light works to reduce symptoms during an attack and, if used regularly, to lower the risk of an attack.
Dr Nick Silver, a consultant neurologist at the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool, said: ‘This is an extremely exciting time for patients with migraines.
‘An increasing variety of options can treat or prevent attacks, from tablets and injections to handheld nerve-stimulators. It gives patients more choice and more options to find what works for them.
‘This work related to green-light treatment may add to the armoury of treatments we have and offer help with few or no side-effects.’
Zinc supplements can soothe migraines, according to a new study in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research.
Sixty women aged 28 to 42 were given 15 mg a day of zinc or a placebo for 12 weeks. The frequency and severity of their headaches were assessed before and after the study.
Taking zinc significantly reduced the frequency, length and severity of attacks, compared with a placebo. This may be due to zinc easing the blood vessel inflammation thought to cause migraines.
How doing housework can improve your health. This week: Take the ironing upstairs, two steps at a time
Climbing the stairs provides a chance to fire up one of our largest areas of muscle, the glutes (in your bottom). ‘When we sit for most of the day, the glutes become lazy, so it’s important we keep them active and functional,’ says trainer Hollie Grant (pilatespt.co.uk).
Stair-climbing is great for the glutes, but better still, ‘if it’s safe to, climb the stairs two at a time’, she says. ‘This increases the depth you have to lunge up from, and can help encourage the glutes to do the work.
‘Try to drive your weight through your heels, lean into the front leg as you step, and minimise how much you push off your back foot. If you’re taking the laundry upstairs, why not separate it into a few piles so you have to do four trips instead of one?’
Try this every time you go upstairs for any chore.
A faulty gene may be the reason for some forms of male infertility, according to a Wellcome Sanger Institute study. The researchers analysed more than 2,300 men, half of whom were infertile. A change in the Y chromosome was responsible for a lower sperm count in some of those affected.
Fusion Allergy Cold Therapy Mask contains beads to relieve itchy, red, watery eyes, as well as puffy or inflamed eyes, such as those caused by hay fever. Place it in the freezer for an hour and then over closed eyes for ten minutes: £8.99, lloydspharmacy.com.
Scientific terms decoded. This week: ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate)
If you’ve had blood tests for an infection, you probably had your erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) checked — even if you didn’t realise.
This blood test measures inflammation levels. As well as infection, it can point to conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and monitor them.
The test evaluates the rate at which red blood cells fall in a test tube. The word ‘erythrocyte’ means red blood cells and ‘sedimentation’ describes their movement.
In a patient with little inflammation, the cells fall slowly, leaving plasma (the straw-coloured liquid in blood) at the top. With higher levels of inflammation, cells fall faster.
This is because there are more proteins, which are generated as part of the body’s defence mechanism against infection.
If you’ve had blood tests for an infection, you probably had your erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) checked — even if you didn’t realise
Arthritis drug also helps eczema
A pill used in the treatment of arthritis can reduce the symptoms of eczema, according to a trial from Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York.
The drug, upadacitinib, was given daily to more than 1,600 patients with the skin condition, and the majority had a 90 per cent reduction in symptoms, such as itching, by 16 weeks into the trial.
Upadacitinib treats rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system attacks the joints. It works by blocking the pathways of cytokines, inflammatory proteins linked to the condition. These proteins also affect eczema, which may explain the pill’s success, scientists say.
Upside of hating broccoli
If you are sensitive to bitter tastes such as broccoli, you may have a lower risk of catching Covid, research suggests.
Scientists from the Baton Rouge General Medical Center in the U.S. analysed the taste genes of 1,935 adults, of whom 266 had the virus.
They found those sensitive to bitter tastes, due to having more bitter taste receptors, T2Rs, were less likely to be hospitalised by coronavirus.
One theory is those with a sensitivity to bitter tastes, so-called ‘supertasters’, may have enhanced protection due to the nitric oxide which can be triggered by T2Rs and reduces the chances of the spike protein attaching to cells.
If you are sensitive to bitter tastes such as broccoli, you may have a lower risk of catching Covid, research suggests