Despite a recent wave of misleading headlines, Simon Cowell’s doing just fine. The Britain’s Got Talent judge addressed some online chatter about his health, and explained why he’s always rocking red-tinted glasses these days.
“I just found out, according to the internet, I have a ‘mystery illness,’” Cowell wrote on Instagram. “For anyone concerned, I missed two auditions at the end of one day, two weeks ago, because I do get migraines after long days in the filming lights…This is why I wear these glasses!”
In the first photo of the post, Cowell is smirking and wearing his signature specs as he sits at the judges’ table. In the second, he poked fun at himself by including a close-up of a fly with large copper eyes. Several people in the comments empathized by sharing that they also deal with migraine attacks and have tried all sorts of things to prevent them.
Migraine is a common neurological condition that’s largely characterized by severe, throbbing headaches, as well as symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound, all of which can be debilitating. Preventing a migraine attack—the stage when symptoms of the condition hit most intensely—usually involves avoiding triggers, which can vary a ton from person to person: alcohol, caffeine withdrawal, loud noises, bright lights, ongoing stress and anxiety, certain odors or perfumes, the list of possibilities goes on and on.
So, yes, for some people with migraine, wearing tinted glasses can help keep the pain away—especially if certain types of light or bright light seem to be a headache trigger, Dane M. Chetkovich, MD, PhD, professor and chair of neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, tells SELF.
These special glasses usually have a tint called FL-41, Kevin Weber, MD, assistant professor of neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. “This is a type of tint designed to block the blue light portion of the light spectrum,” he explains. (While Cowell didn’t specify which type of glasses he uses, they look similar to a lot of FL-41 shades on the market, which typically have lenses with a pinkish-to-reddish hue.)
There is some data to suggest that specific types of light can exacerbate migraine headaches in people with the condition. One small study of 69 people diagnosed with migraine concluded that blue, amber, and white light made headaches worse. FL-41 glasses, which were originally made to reduce light sensitivity caused by fluorescent hues, were even studied back in the early 1990s, in a small research project that had 20 children with migraine wear the colored shades for four months. Kids who wore rose-tinted glasses specifically experienced an impressive drop in headaches, from roughly six a month to one to two a month.
That said, the experts SELF spoke with say more research is needed to understand how well they truly work, if other types of tints may be helpful, and why. “There are lots of different factors that influence migraine frequency and severity, and everyone has unique triggers,” Dr. Chetkovich says. “Medicines and devices that may help one person may not work for others.”