Intuitive Colorimetry and Cluster Headache

Could coloured lenses filtering wavelengths in a certain range help people with Cluster Headache? Prof Arnold Wilkins explains more:

What is Intuitive Colorimetry?

The Intuitive Colorimeter is an optometric instrument that enables patients to observe text illuminated by coloured light, and permits the colour, strength of colour (saturation) and light level (luminance) to be varied separately, so that the effects of these three variables can be assessed independently. It allows an examiner to rapidly identify colours that improve perception and to do so while the eyes are adapted to that shade of colour.

The optimal colour can then be replicated and ratified using combinations of tinted trial lenses. The combination of trial lenses specifies the colour and enables spectacle lenses to be dyed precisely that colour. The instrument has been used to alleviate symptoms of visual stress in children with reading difficulty but is now finding application in neurology patients.

Cluster Headaches: a rare but excruciating condition

Cluster headaches are thankfully rare. They have been named “suicide headaches” because the pain is so intense. The pain is unilateral in or behind one eye and starts with as a warning (“shadow”) from which the pain builds.  The attacks occur in clusters of headaches lasting 15min to 3 hours, several times a day. The occurrence is often seasonal. Treatment includes injectable sumatriptan and oxygen.

Can tinted lenses make a difference?

Recently a case was reported in which a patient with cluster headache was provided with precision tinted lenses using the Intuitive Colorimeter as part of an unrelated project. When his shadows started he put on his tinted lenses and found to his surprise that the pain subsided within minutes.  He has successfully aborted countless attacks and has now been free of cluster headaches for 6 years.  A second patient who wears his tinted lenses for screen work has been free of cluster headaches for two years.  A third patient has been free of headaches for a year. A fourth patient has not been successful.

Optometrists need training in this technique

There are now about 600 optometrists in the UK who offer an investigation using the Intuitive Colorimeter. Most are listed on the manufacturer’s site at Some are members of the Society for Coloured Lens Prescribers and are signatories to a code of conduct. They may be contacted via the Society’s site:

An opportunity for some people with Cluster Headache?

The company that manufactures the tinted lenses, Cerium Visual Technologies, have offered to pay the costs of precision tinted spectacles of the first 10 patients with cluster headache. If the patient has a refractive correction, the lenses will include this correction. If you wish to refer your patient, please ask them to contact Arnold Wilkins ( in the first instance, who will liaise with the nearest optometrist. Although there is no charge for the spectacles in standard frames, patients may pay for frames of their choice, should they wish to do so. The optometrist may wish to charge for the colorimetry assessment, which takes about 20 minutes.

Professor Arnold Wilkins

Emeritus Professor

Department of Psychology

University of Essex

To find out more about research being done into headache disorders, have a look at our Research page.

People with Cluster Headache may wish to join OUCH, the Organisation for the Understanding of Cluster Headache, for support and advocacy. See our Useful Links page for more support organisations.


Wilkins A.J. & Cooper, N. (2021) Treatment of cluster headache in a different light: a case report. touchREVIEWS in Neurology, 17(2),110-11.

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