Can iPhones Trigger Migraines?

April 27, 2016

iPhoneIf you’re addicted to your iPhone, you’re not alone. Smart phones have become the new American obsession – over three-quarters of Americans now own a smart phone. And if you’re the kind of person who checks your phone for texts, missed calls or emails even when it’s not ringing or vibrating, you’re with the majority. Most smart phone owners admit to constantly checking their phones and even keeping them beside their bed throughout the night.

The constant access to communication and information is good for most people, but for people who suffer from migraine headaches, constantly checking that little device could mean trouble. New research suggests that time spent on our favorite tiny screens could lead to more migraine headaches. Several studies about migraines have shown us that screen time on televisions and computers is a migraineurs’ enemy, but we haven’t known much about how smartphones affect migraines until now.

Light-Induced Migraine

Many people who suffer from migraines can tell you that light of any kind can be a trigger for their migraines. Whether it’s a particularly sunny morning commute or a night spent at the movie theater, flashes of light can trigger a migraine attack. Some people are especially sensitive to electronic light – the kind of light that is emitted by our television and computer screens.

Eyestrain and Migraine

Eyestrain is that sensation you get when your eyes start to feel wobbly after reading for too long. While it’s possible to get eyestrain from reading a paper book, it’s more common to suffer from eyestrain while looking at a computer, television or other screens. Eyestrain is also a common trigger for some men and women who suffer from migraines.

Can iPhones Cause Migraine?

So what happens when you combine light-induced migraines and eyestrain migraine? You might know the answer if you think you have had a migraine triggered by your iPhone or other smart phones.

Most young people spend at least two hours a day reading on their phones, so it’s not surprising that many young people say their smart phones are migraine triggers. A recent study from France concluded that participants who used their small screens and smart phones for over two hours each day were more likely to experience migraine symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound and visual, sensory or motor disturbances than those who used their screens for less than two hours.

So what’s a migraineur to do if you can’t stay away from your phone for more than a few minutes? It’s all but impossible for most of us to avoid screen time altogether, but it is important to give your eyes a break (at least ten minutes an hour) and get appropriate amounts of sleep each night. If you just can’t stay off your phone, try opting for the largest screen size possible next time you upgrade.


Malkki, H. (2016). Migraine: Long screen time exposure could increase the risk of migraine. Nature Reviews. Neurology, 12(1), 4.

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