The pupillary light reflex in migraine

Deacon E. Harle*, James S. Wolffsohn, Bruce J.W. Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The literature suggests that there may be pupil size and response abnormalities in migraine headache sufferers. We used an infra-red pupillometer to measure dynamic pupil responses to light in 20 migraine sufferers (during non-headache periods) and 16 non-migraine age and gender matched controls. There was a significant increase in the absolute inter-ocular difference of the latency of the pupil light response in the migraine group compared with the controls (0.062 s vs 0.025 s, p = 0.014). There was also a significant correlation between anisocoria and lateralisation of headache such that migraine sufferers with a habitual head pain side have more anisocoria (r= 0.59, p < 0.01), but this was not related to headache laterally. The pupil changes were not correlated with the interval since the last migraine headache, the severity of migraine headache or the number of migraine headaches per annum. We conclude that subtle sympathetic and parasympathetic pupil abnormalities persist in the inter-ictal phase of migraine. © 2005 The College of Optometrists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-245
Number of pages6
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
Issue number3
Early online date26 Apr 2005
Publication statusPublished - May 2005


  • anisocoria
  • migraine
  • pupil size
  • pupillary light response


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