Digital TV is badly affecting my MAV

Hi ,

I’m a lyrica gal and usually I can watch TV . However since the switch over in Kent to digital TV I simply can’t look at the TV . Any idea how why this is and how I can combat it?

Did you buy a new TV? You didn’t happen to buy one with an LED backlight did you?

Hi, I do know but I also bought a digibox for my old crt portable and that is having the same effect on me.

Hi just looked it is in fact a back light LED TV.

I cannot tell you why the converter box would make a tv that you used to be able to watch give you trouble. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I can tell you that LED back-lit computer monitors are DEATH on migrainers, so I’m assuming the TVs could very well be the same.

The reason? Not the LED light. The LED light is fine. The problem is, there isn’t a good cost-effective way to dim LED light yet. So the way people do it is to duty-cycle the LED light–essentially they strobe it. It strobes at a rate of 120-180 Hz or so–a speed that no one can actually see. But for people with migraine problems, this can trigger terrible migraines VERY quickly.

Lest you think this is just a theory, my dad and I have used some very expensive equipment he has for work to confirm that back-lit LED computer monitors actually do this. My LED monitor actually stops doing this if I set it to 100% brightness, but at anything below 100% brightness it strobes like crazy and (at least back before I was taking topamax) would give me problems very quickly. I’m guessing your back-lit LED TV is causing you problems in much the same way.

But I don’t know why your other TV with the converter box would give you problems.

Hi Jamie,

I guess this is not the same with all migraineurs, I have both an led tv and led computer monitor and have no issues wit watching them at all

Are your migraines ever triggered by flickering light? For people who are sensitive to flickering light light like I am, LED-backlit monitors (set at less than 100% brightness) are absolute murder, on par with or even worse than the worst fluorescent lighting.

If you aren’t sensitive to flickering light, then the strobing light of the LED backlit monitor probably won’t bother you any more than other flashing light sources.

HI ,

thanks for the info. I had no idea about this. I am sensitive to light so it mush have triggered. Also it’s the fast camera angles that my brain hates . I think the clarity is also affecting me even on an old TV . I thinks it’s triggered so can’t cope with any thing at the moment.

Hi Fiona,

Good timing on this post. I’ve decided I want a television after having a borrowed 40" LCD for a few days. Initially I felt dizzy on it but it stopped. I wonder if a bigger LED version would hammer the nails in. Really hate that we have to even think about this crap but it’s a pain when you dole out 1500 bucks or so only to find out it’s just making us feel so much worse. :shock:

Yes, if visual stuff (especially flickering/flashing/strobing) affects your migraine, take a trip down to a store for an extended viewing session to check out a new TV before you put a bunch of money into it. Just find it on the floor and stand in front of it for a good 15-30 minutes and see how you feel. Of course, this can be tough if stores make you feel like crap too!

I will see if I can get my dad to grab his portable light oscilloscope from work and take it with us to a TV store one of these days to check LED backlit TVs. So far I’ve only been able to confirm on LED monitors. But:

  1. I know LED backlit monitors are strobing in the 120-180 Hz range to control brightness
  2. I know some large subset of migrainers are sensitive to strobing light
  3. I know that I personally am affected greatly by this (or at least was pre Topamax).
  4. I suspect LED backlit TVs use the same technology

Just for reference, we measured my Samsung LCD TV and the light waveform coming off of it was oscillating at over 400 Hz (higher frequencies are good). No one has found anything that indicates anyone, including migrainers, can pick up on something that oscillates at this high of a frequency. People argue at what the top visual frequency anyone can acutally be affect by is. No one can agree, but I don’t think anyone believe it much more than about 180-200 Hz.

BTW talked with my dad more about this last night (he is an electrical engineer who used to design TVs). He says that the LED-backlit TVs do not HAVE to do this, but neither do the LED backlit monitors. The ones that are doing do are just doing so because they are cost-cutting. There are solutions that don’t cause the strobing, they are just moderately more expensive.

So, there may always be exceptions and there may be specific LED-backlit TV’s & monitors that do not strobe and do not cause migraine problems. Unfortunately since you all can’t rush out and buy a portable optical oscilloscope, it is hard to know for any individual TV. So I just recommend caution for anyone with visual triggers–always test out a big-ticket purchase to make sure it doesn’t trigger any migraine issues in you before you buy it, or at least have a way to return it if you can’t try it first.

I wondered about the flickering too. I read somewhere that it’s only when in power saving mode or when you turn the brightness down that they flicker.

I tested this by viewing the monitor screen through my digital camera and sure enough, you can see the flicker when you unplug the power supply and also when it’s set to anything below full brightness!

mine was a cheap and cheerful TV so clearly has the problems. It also was darkly lit in interior shots so at one point i had he brightness up fully. What worries me is the strength of the MAV crash ,I’ve been doing well but clearly the pregabalin could not protect me. So i don’t know what the future holds. It has jarred by brain so much I can’t even watch DVDs on old crt tvs and I could always watch telly.

I’ve decided I’m going to buy a Panasonic plasma. You can pick up a 50" ST50A for $1250 here in Sydney. I think this is the right move for me as I find plasma much easier and softer on the eyes. An LED backlit screen will most certainly destroy me in a room this small.


Me too. JamieH thank you for the wealth of information, this was amazing stuff to read as yes, a lot of us with MAV have massive issues with light sensitivities etc. Fluro lights destroy me in the office space and my brain just wants pure natural daylight all the sodding time!

At least I know now that when I go for my next job that I’ll request a monitor that is NOT LED-backlit!!

Thank you.

BTW, talked to my dad a little more about this last night. He said that all TV’s may or may not do this to some extent just based on how they are designed and how cheap they are built. However, he believes the LED-backlit TVs/monitors that happen to control brightness with this strobing method may be the harshest on those of us with migraines due to the instant on/off properties of LED lights. Regular LCD monitors are lit by flourescent light. Now, that has its own problems, but flourescent light takes some amount of time to turn on and off, so even if the monitor if flashing it rapidly, the general effect doesn’t give you quite the strobing effect you get with the LED backlit monitors since the light persists a bit between the time it turns on and off.

Plasma TVs have been known to have some flickering effect, but it tends to be more down in the 60 Hz range where you would see flicker on the old CRT Tvs. This is actual in the normal visual range. That can still cause migraines in some people, but it would probably be something that you would be able to see–i.e. it most likely wouldn’t be something that is happening subconsciuosly.

I will keep stealing my dad’s digital optical oscilloscope when I can to take measurements. For now, on computer monitors I am going to stick with Dell LCD monitors, as they seem to do a great job with them, at least on their higher end models. I’ve been using the U2410 since before I was on the Topamax and it has worked quite well for me except for the fact that it is a very bright monitor! I had to turn it way way down just to avoid the brightness. But I don’t believe it flickers at all. I’ve also had very good luck with Dell laptops and my old Dell LCD, all of which I have confirmed do not flicker/strobe at all. I’m not sure what the best TVs are, but I know my Samsung LCD is just fine. Maybe I’ll have my Dad bring his meter over this weekend and test out my plasma too just to see. Scott has me curious now!