Symptoms Of Visual Disturbances From Migraine
Positive symptoms include zig-zag lines which often shimmer and may move across the field of vision, sparkles, dots, stars, spots, squiggles, and flash bulb effects. The classic migraine visual aura consists of an area that is not well seen, surrounded by shimmering zig-zag lines, that gradually enlarges and then breaks up over a period of 15-30 minutes.
Negative symptoms are blind spots, tunnel vision, complete loss of vision, or loss of all vision to the left or right side.
Distorted or altered visual symptoms are the sensations of looking through water, heat waves, blurred vision, fractured vision , loss of color vision, objects appearing too large or small, or objects seeming closer or farther than they really are.
Given the wide variety of visual symptoms that accompany migraine, it is sometimes hard to determine whether ones symptoms are indeed migraine-related, or due to a more serious problem that warrants medical attention. Causes for concern include:
Deborah I. Friedman, MD, MPH, Director, Headache and Facial Pain Program University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX
This article is a legacy contribution from the American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education and the Fred Sheftell, MD Education Center.
What Causes Migraine Pain
Research is still ongoing, but migraines are thought to likely be caused by a phenomenon called cortical spreading depression . This is a process that happens in the brain, more specifically the cortex, when these brain cells are over stimulated.
This stimulation affects the production of serotonin and other brain chemicals. Serotonin then stimulates the trigeminovascular system. This system controls the brains blood vessels, causing them to swell.
Swollen blood vessels do two things:
- Push on neighbouring nerves causing the sensation of pain.
- Force the blood to travel through much smaller than normal spaces, making the pulsation of the blood more prominent.
With changes like this happening to the vessels inside our heads, it isnt all that surprising that people often describe the pain as throbbing or as a feeling of pressure inside their head.
Visual Impairments Associated With Migraine Can Happen With Or Without A Headache
Ocular Migraine is a term that has been used to refer to a number of migraine subtypes that are characterized by a variety of visual disturbances including visual loss, blind spots, zig-zag lines, or seeing stars. Unlike other forms of migraine, they may occur without any accompanying head pain. Its not uncommon for a single patient to experience a wide range of visual symptoms. Heres what you need to know to better understand the migraine subtypes that affect vision.
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What Is A Migraine
A migraine is a recurrent and severe headache which a whopping one in ten New Zealanders suffer from. There are a few different types of migraines which people usually experience:
Migraines might occur rarely, once or twice a year, or they could strike several times a month. The frequency differs drastically between sufferers and is often associated with an underlying cause. Migraines usually run in families as they have a genetic component. People with two parents who suffer from migraines have a 75% chance of having migraines themselves. Women are also three times more likely than men to get them.
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Migraine Triggers: Eye Conditions That Are Responsible For Blurred Vision And Migraines
Improper focusing or improper alignment of the eyes causes eye strain. Eye conditions such as farsighted, nearsighted or astigmatism cause vision changes that are responsible for eye strain.
Migraine due to eye strain starts after using your eyes for a long time to do a variety of tasks. Activities such as reading, looking at the computer for long periods and sewing can trigger a migraine.
If you indulge in activities that require you to use your eyes for long periods of time, make sure you get prescription glasses. The eye strain will reduce and also your migraine.
Eye inflammation may cause blurry vision and migraine. Other symptoms of eye inflammation may include as follows:
- Swelling and redness of the eyes and eyelids
- Eye pain when you move your eyes
- Extreme sensitivity to light
It is important to visit an ophthalmologist to examine your inflamed eyes. The eye doctor may use the slit lamp method to see if there is evidence of tumor inside or behind the eye.
If a tumor is present behind the eye, it is usually accompanied with a lot of eye pain as it will cause the eyes to bulge out. A tumor in the eye can also cause loss of vision or defect in the peripheral vision.
Most people suffer from open angle glaucoma, which is usually painless. However, an angle closure glaucoma can be painful.
Is Your Headache Caused By Eye Strain
To tell if your headache is caused by eye strain or not, remove the triggers that are straining your eyes. If your headache dissipates once the triggers that cause eye strain are removed, your headache was likely caused by eye strain. If you have systematically removed factors that cause eye strain and you still experience severe headaches, its time to see a doctor.
You should see your doctor about your headaches if they:
- Occur frequently or regularly.
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What Causes Blurred Vision And Nausea Or Vomiting
WebMD Symptom Checker. Blurred vision and Nausea or vomiting. WebMD Symptom Checker helps you find the most common medical conditions indicated by the symptoms blurred vision and nausea or vomiting including Diabetic ketoacidosis, Diabetes, type 2, and Food poisoning. There are 76 conditions associated with blurred vision and nausea or vomiting.
What Is Eye Strain
Eye strain can produce eye discomfort and headaches, although it is uncommon and overrated as a cause of headache, especially headache associated with any function limiting activity. Eye strain is caused by improper focusing , or when the two eyes are not properly aligned. Children under school age rarely complain of headaches from eyestrain. The typical headache of eyestrain starts after using the eyes, especially for extended periods of time, such as long periods of time using the computer, reading, or even sewing. Any number of tasks that require you to use your eyes for a long time may lead to a headache. For these individuals, it is important to make sure that, if needed, they have the appropriate prescription of eyeglasses. If the discomfort is caused by eyestrain, then it will be relieved with lenses or by correcting the alignment of the eyes.
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Other Conditions That Can Cause Blurry Vision
Sometimes, blurry vision can be caused by something other than a migraine attack. These can include:
- Low blood sugar.When your brain is deprived of glucose, its primary source of fuel, the result can be a headache and blurred vision.
- Stroke. Symptoms of a stroke can include a sudden, severe headache and/or blurred vision in one or both of your eyes.
- Ministroke. A ministroke, also referred to as a transient ischemic attack , can have symptoms that include headache and blurry vision. TIA is a sign that you are at risk for an impending stroke.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning. When carbon monoxide deprives the brain and body of oxygen, common reactions include vision problems and headache. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, so you may not notice if you breathe it in. When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it binds to the hemoglobin in your blood, preventing it from carrying oxygen to your tissues and organs.
- Hemangioblastoma. A progressive headache and blurred vision can be signs of a hemangioblastoma, a rare type of tumor. According to a 2013 case study, these rare tumors account for 12.5% of all abnormal growth in the cranial cavity.
What Causes A Migraine
Although migraines are extremely common, their exact cause remains unknown. It appears likely that the visual aura relates to a phenomenon called cortical spreading depression which temporarily affects electrical impulses in the brain. The pain of a migraine headache probably relates to spasm or irritability of blood vessels in the brain, which are sensitive to pain . Beyond these hypotheses, however, the exact mechanism that triggers a migraine remains unknown.
It is often possible to identify certain risk factors that increase the chance of having migraines. A positive family history is very common, so the doctor will often ask about headaches in ones parents or siblings. Overall, migraines are more common in women than in men. In addition, a persons hormonal status can affect the pattern of migraines they experience therefore, it is natural for a woman to notice a change in headaches and other migraine symptoms in adolescence or around the time of menopause.
Many individuals can identify specific triggers for their migraines. These triggers include fatigue, skipping a meal, caffeine withdrawal, stress, and certain foods . For many patients with isolated visual migraines, however, the events can be very infrequent and no definite trigger can be determined.
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Symptoms Associated With Double Vision
In addition to dizziness and nausea, you might also be experiencing double, overlapping or shadowed vision. It can also manifest as extreme light sensitivity caused by seeing an amplified glare coming from surfaces. If youve always been clumsy or uncoordinated or have poor hand-eye coordination, difficulty with sports which require catching or hitting a ball, you may be suffering from BVD. Besides blurred vision, shadowed vision or layered vision, you might also find yourself covering or closing one eye to make visual tasks easier.
Treatment For Eye Strain Headaches
In addition to modifying your habits, you can also relieve eye strain headaches at home by taking the following steps.
- Wear prescription glasses. Using reading or computer glasses may provide relief. If you have glasses to correct your vision, be sure to use your most recent prescription.
- Close your eyes. Simply resting your eyes for several minutes can ease your symptoms.
- Use artificial tears. Dryness can make your eye strain worse. Using artificial tears may help moisten your eyes and offer relief.
- Take an NSAID. If you have a stubborn eye strain headache, an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug may help.
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Why Does A Migraine Affect Vision
While the exact causes of migraine and aura are not fully understood, we are aware of what happens to the brain after a migraine is triggered. The cortical spreading depression or over-stimulation of the brain has a flow on effect.
This sudden intense activity in the brain cells is like if all the lights in a city were turned on at once. Then it is followed by a drop-off of activity in that area of the brain. Like a power cut, a blackout in one suburb of the city. The decrease in activity spreads across the top layer of the brain . Like a power outage that gradually spreads from suburb to suburb, until the whole city is in a black out. The drop off starts in the visual areas of the brain , then travels to the body sensation part of the brain , then to the areas important in processing sound .
If there is a loss of activity in the visual areas of the brain, our eyes will still gather information important for sight, but our brain confuses the information and what we see will be distorted, disrupted and weird! When trying to get a grasp on ideas like this, it helps to remind ourselves that the eyes do not see. The eyes gather visual information about the outside world. This is then packaged into electrical and chemical messages that get sent along nerves to the occipital lobe in the brain. This information is then processed into something our brain can understand like a beautiful sunset or a busy city street.
What Causes Ocular Migraine
Migraine aura is considered to be a result of abnormal electrical activity involving certain regions of the cortex of the brain. This abnormal activity spreads across the cortex at a slow rate of about 3mm per minute and this spread is responsible for the growth and movement of the visual disturbance over the 20-60 minutes that the visual aura lasts. Retinal migraine may be due to the same type of disturbance except occurring at the back of the eye in the retina, or it may be due to a reduction in blood flow to the retina.
Like other types of migraine, harsh lights and electronic screens can be triggers. Straining your eyes by staring at a screen for long periods of time, spending time in fluorescent or other harsh lighting, driving long distances and other taxing visual activities can increase your risk for attacks. Talk to your eye doctor about how to avoid attacks.
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Can Bad Eyesight Cause Headaches Or Dizziness
Bad eyesight could be related to your headaches and dizziness. Absolutely, when you strain your eyes and squint a lot to see something, it can lead to headaches and nausea. The reason is that the frontal muscles are straining and then causes headaches. It could be nothing but it can be a sign of something more serious.
Preventing Headaches Caused By Digital Eye Strain
There are certain actions you can take to reduce or eliminate the headaches youre experiencing as a result of digital eye strain:
- Make sure your computer monitor is at least 20 to 25 inches away from your eyes.
- Consider purchasing a blue light filter for your glasses or computer monitor.
- Keep the lighting in the room as bright as your monitor.
- Avoid overly dark rooms.
- Prevent glare on your computer screen.
- Make your font as large as possible.
- Take as many breaks as you can. Experts recommend 20 minutes away from your screen every two hours, in addition to shorter breaks every 20 or 30 minutes.
- Sit up straight, as poor posture can lead to neck tension, which can contribute to headaches.
If you take some steps to protect yourself, like making your font bigger and taking breaks, you should see your headaches improve, says neurologist Stephen Martino, M.D., of Jersey Shore University Medical Center and Ocean Medical Center.
If its been awhile since you got your vision checked, you should also consider visiting the eye doctor. Experts recommend getting a vision exam at least every year to two years.
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Why Do I Have Dizziness In My Eyes
In many cases, dizziness is caused by binocular vision problems. If a TBI causes the eyes to be misaligned, the brain will receive conflicting signals from each eye, often resulting in a double image. This will cause eye strain as the brain attempts to put the images back together for a unified and clear view of their surroundings.
Treatment And Prevention Of Ocular And Visual Migraines
As already noted, visual disturbances caused by ocular migraines and visual migraines typically go away within an hour.
If you are performing tasks that require clear vision when an ocular migraine or visual migraine occurs, stop what you are doing and relax until it passes. If you’re driving, pull of the road, park your vehicle and wait for your vision to return to normal.
As soon as possible, see your eye doctor, family physician or a neurologist for evaluation of your migraine episodes. Your doctor can let you know about the latest medicines for treating migraines, including those that may help prevent future attacks.
It’s also a good idea to keep a journal of your diet and daily activities. Doing so can help you identify possible triggers of your ocular migraines or visual migraines .
Many migraine attacks are stress-related. You might be able to reduce how often they occur by:
Avoiding common migraine triggers
Getting plenty of sleep
Trying stress-busters such as yoga and massage
Migraines can be successfully managed so they are less frequent and debilitating. The first step is to see a doctor to discuss your symptoms including vision problems and discuss treatment and prevention options.
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