Ocular Migraine

Migraines occur to over three million people per  year. A migraine is a severe headache that usually feels like throbbing and it is accompanied usually by nausea or light sensitivity.  Migraines are broken up into two categories. Migraines with aura and migraines without aura. An aura is when you experience visual symptoms as well, such as lines, flashes or shapes.  Two of the main migraines with aura are ocular migraines and visual migraines. Ocular migraines are more rare than visual migraines. Sadly like other migraines there is no cure for these migraines with aura and no one is actually sure what causes them. 

Ocular migraines can cause temporary vision loss or temporary blindness in one of your eyes.  This is caused by reduced blood flow or spasms of blood vessels in the retina or behind the eye.  Some people who have these ocular migraines may not have any pain. They can be painless events. Though sometimes they are accompanied by a migraine headache.  Thankfully your vision will return back to normal within an hour of the first sign of symptoms.  

Ocular migraines and visual migraines are sometimes misdiagnosed or called the same thing when really they aren’t.  Ocular migraines usually only affect one eye. There is a small blind spot that will start in the center of one eye and gets larger as time passes.  This can affect the visual field making doing certain activities hard to do, such as driving. The symptoms usually only last an hour. With visual migraines you may experience flickering blind spots in the center or close to the center of your vision, you may also see wavy, zigzag colored lights or have a blind spot moves across the visual field.  Visual migraines affect both eyes and are usually accompanied by a migraine headache. The symptoms only last about thirty minutes before going away. If you don’t know if you are experiencing an ocular migraine or a visual one you can cover one of your eyes to see if you still have symptoms or not. If you do then it is most likely a visual migraine.  If you only have symptoms in one eye then it is an ocular one.  

The only thing that doctors can think lead to migraines is genetics and family history.  There are a lot of things that can trigger the onset of ocular migraine though. Some of the triggers are food, too much caffeine, caffeine withdrawal, dehydration, or low blood sugar.  Others are cigarette smoke, perfumes, and strong odors. Flickering lights, lack of sleep, stress, high altitude, and too much screen time can also trigger an ocular migraine. There are a lot of things that can start up an ocular migraine but there are some things you can do to try and avoid triggering on a migraine.  Obviously in regards to too much screen time you will want to try and limit how long you are looking at a screen if you find that can trigger your ocular migraines. You also can eat healthier. Preservatives you find in some processed foods can trigger migraines, so eliminating those can help. Also make sure you are getting plenty of sleep.  Lack of sleep can lead to headaches or migraines so getting plenty of sleep each night can be key. Another thing to do if you suffer from ocular migraines is to make sure you de-stress. Make sure you give yourself two hours each day or night to yourself. To allow yourself to do something calming, such as yoga, stretching, reading, or taking a leisurely bubble bath. 

Usually with ocular migraines you have vision problems but no headache.  Though sometimes ocular migraines can cause nausea, vomiting, tingling, numbness, slurred speech, and impaired motor skills.  With the vision problems with ocular migraines, the blind spot in the middle of your vision that gets larger throughout the migraine it can make it hard for you to do daily activities.  If you start having one of these migraines while driving you will want to pull over until symptoms pass to not put yourself and others in danger.  

Diagnosis begins with an eye exam by your doctor.  The problem with diagnosing ocular migraines is usually your doctor will have to eliminate other possible eye problems before settling on the diagnosis of ocular migraine.  Once diagnosed though there usually isn’t much intervention that is done. This is because symptoms go away on their own in about an hour. Your doctor will suggest that if you feel one of these coming on you rest your eyes and stop what you are doing.  If you get a migraine headache with the vision problems you can always take a pain reliever to relieve the pain from the headache. Other things your doctor may suggest you do is to go to a quiet, dark room. Also massaging your scalp or putting pressure on your temples can be helpful.  A damp towel on over your forehead can relieve some of the pain and discomfort as well. If you have extreme symptoms that just resting your eyes and waiting for the symptoms to pass doesn’t work there are some medications your doctor can give you. Medications that can help are epilepsy drugs, beta-blockers, or high blood pressure medications can help subside your ocular migraines.  Other medications you can be prescribed are antidepressants if you ocular migraines are brought on by stress and you can’t find time to de-stress yourself. For women hormone therapy can help, migraines in women are sometimes brought on by the fluctuation of your hormones.  

Though ocular migraines are not pleasant, usually symptoms subside on their own within an hour of starting.   If you have had vision problems make sure you go get an eye exam done. Remember to try and stay away from your migraine triggers if you suffer from ocular migraines and keep yourself well rested and de-stressed.  

For women hormone therapy can help, migraines in women are sometimes brought on by the fluctuation of your hormones.



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