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Does A Migraine Affect Your Vision

What Is The Medical Treatment For Visual Migraines

How Migraines Affect Vision Medical Course

After making the diagnosis, the doctor should provide counseling about treatments that do not include taking drugs, for example, regular rest, good sleep habits, and exercise. The doctor may ask neurologists, neuro-ophthalmologists, and/or neurosurgeons for their opinions and help.

Migraineurs should avoid potential triggering factors.

  • They may need to stop taking drugs that worsen the headache.
  • If oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy might be a potential trigger mechanism, it is best to reduce dosages . If headaches persist, the migraineur, in consultation with the doctor, should consider stopping hormone therapy.

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.

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.

Read Also: Tylenol Migraine Relief

How Are Vision Changes With Migraine Treated

Many options exist to treat migraine with visual aura. Drugs, including calcium channel blockers, antiepileptics, or tricyclics, may work for those with occasional migraine.2 Some people find that quitting smoking helps. Others may need to stop taking birth control pills.

Controlling the environment may help some people with migraine and vision distortions. Suggestions include:

  • Turning off harsh or bright lights
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Reducing time in front of a computer and other electronic screens2

What Causes Ocular Migraines

How Does a Migraine Affect Your Body?

Theyre thought to originate in a similar way as migraine headaches, by irregular electrical activity in the brain. Genetics play a role in who experiences migraines, and theyre also more common in women. Potential triggers include certain MSG-containing foods, harsh light, stress and changes in weather.

Although the root cause is the same, it is not known why some people experience migraine pain after visual disturbances and others dont or why the same person might experience both on different occasions.

It is quite common that as women get older, they might have fewer headaches and less pain but more of these auras, Dr. Estemalik says.

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Symptoms Of Retinal Migraine

The symptoms of retinal migraine may include:

  • partial or total loss of vision in 1 eye this usually lasts 10 to 20 minutes before vision gradually returns
  • headache this may happen before, during or after the vision attack

It’s unusual for an episode of vision loss to last longer than an hour. The same eye is affected every time in almost all cases.

Vision may slowly become blurred or dimmed, or there may be flashes of light. Some people see a mosaic-like pattern of blank spots , which enlarge to cause total loss of vision.

A Guide To Ocular Migraine: Everything You Need To Know

We have all experienced different types of headaches. Most adults get headaches now and then, but how do you know if its serious? But there is a throbbing excruciating pain in your head that usually signals that you do not have a normal headache.

These are signs that you might be having a migraine. The most common neurological disorder is the migraine. It is estimated that a whopping 30 million Americans are suffering from migraines each year. What is even worse is that if you suffer from migraines, you are more likely to suffer a stroke.

Different types of migraines are caused by different things, each with a different set of symptoms.

An ocular migraine is a type of migraine that involves visual interference. Since some migraines, including the ocular migraine with aura, can show similar symptoms as life-threatening conditions, you need to know the differences and knowing when it as an emergency.

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Diagnosing And Treating Ocular Migraines

When you visit your doctor, they will ask about your symptoms, examine your eyes, and order additional tests to rule out other serious conditions such as:

  • Amaurosis fugax
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Spasms in the blood vessels that carry blood to the eye
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Stroke or transient ischemic attack
  • Drug abuse

Professional Treatments

If you have been diagnosed with retinal migraines, consult your doctor about the best treatment options. There is no one recommended treatment regimen since it varies from person to person.

If you dont experience ocular migraines very frequently, your doctor may advise you to use over-the-counter NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen when the episodes occur.4

Your doctor may also recommend the following:

  • Anti-nausea medication to reduce nausea and related symptoms
  • Calcium channel blockers to lower blood pressure
  • Anti-epileptic medications to prevent seizures
  • Tricyclic antidepressants to alter the brains chemistry

Doctors dont usually use traditional migraine treatments such as triptans and ergotamines for people with ocular migraines.5

Triptans, for example, arent safe if youre at risk for a stroke, which may be the case for people experiencing temporary blindness in one eye.

A recent technique for treating or preventing ocular migraine is to use a self-administered device that delivers electrical stimulation to the forehead or back of the head.

These devices include:

Home Remedies

How Can I Get Relief From These Symptoms

Effects of Migraine on Vision

The good news is that these aura are not long lasting and therefore, will usually ease and disappear on their own. However, you can take some action to speed up their retreat. For example, if you are experiencing problems with your vision, laying down in a dark room can help to reduce the discomfort associated with this type of aura. If you are experiencing pins and needles, moving your arms or legs can help to get your circulation flowing.

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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.

Other Symptoms Of Migraine Auras

Some of the other symptoms you may experience from migraine auras include:

  • zigzag lines which often shimmer
  • dots, stars, spots, squiggles, and flash bulb effects
  • a faint, foggy area surrounded by zigzag lines that can grow and break up over a period of 15 to 30 minutes
  • blind spots, tunnel vision, or total loss of vision for a short period
  • sensation of looking through water or heat waves
  • loss of color vision
  • objects appearing too large or too small, or too close or far away

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Are There Steps You Can Take To Lower Your Stroke Risk

Yes, there are things you can do starting right now to lower your risk of stroke. For one thing, be sure to have a complete physical every year and see your neurologist for migraine prevention and treatment. Ask your doctor about:

  • medications that can lessen the frequency of migraine attacks
  • an assessment of your risk factors for stroke
  • birth control methods that dont increase your risk of blood clots

There are also lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of stroke. Some of the most important include the following:

How Persistent Migraines Can Affect The Nervous System

How Migraines Affect Your Vision

Do you suffer from frequent migraines? If you do, you are probably familiar with the symptoms that can accompany your head and neck pain. Did you know that many of these symptoms affect the nervous system and bodily functions such as vision, speech and hearing?

When untreated, migraines usually last anything from 4 to 72 hours and their frequency can differ from person to person. Some people have migraines a number of times every month, while other people may only experience it once or twice a year.

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What Is An Aura

Aura is a sensation that occurs before the migraine. It can also occur before other brain conditions too, like seizures. In a migraine, the most common auras are visual flashing lights, zig zag patterns, blurred vision or patches of shimmering light. Often described as psychedelic in appearance. Other auras can be olfactory , auditory or physical like the feeling of a breeze, numbness, weakness or difficulty speaking.

What Are The ‘red Flags’ That My Visual Symptoms Are Not Due To Migraine

The typical symptoms of a visual migraine are positive, meaning that there is something shimmering or sparkling that is disrupting the vision. Migraines are less likely to cause “negative” symptoms of pure visual darkness. An episode of visual darkness typically requires additional evaluation for other conditions, including a mini-stroke .

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What Are The Symptoms Of An Ocular Migraine

The most common ocular migraine symptom is a small blind spot that impairs your central vision in one eye.

This blind spot expands, making it difficult to drive safely or read using the affected eye.

In addition to the flickering blind spot, other migraine symptoms include:

  • A colorful light ring that is wavy or zigzag and surrounds a central blind spot
  • A blind spot that slowly migrates across your field of vision
  • A migraine lasting between 4 and 42 hours
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Vision loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A headache that feels worse when you move your head

If you have blind spots or other visual symptoms and arent sure whether it’s an ocular migraine or a visual migraine, cover one eye at a time and observe your sense of sight. If the visual disturbance affects one eye only, it is most likely an ocular migraine.

Comprehensive Eye Care For The Whole Family

What do I do to treat an ocular migraine?

Eye Medical Clinic has both optometrists and ophthalmologists on our experienced team of eye specialists. We have proudly served the Bay Area for more than 70 years and we are fully equipped to care for the eye needs of the youngest member of your family to the most senior member. Wed love to talk to you about your migraines as they relate to your vision and see how we can help.

We invite you to experience our expert eye care for every generation at Eye Medical Clinic. Our team, including experienced doctors John Sullivan, MD Mona Bagga, MD and Christina Nguyen Deane, OD, as well as a highly trained and dedicated staff, is dedicated to helping you enjoy your life to the fullestwith the clear vision, you deserve. Schedule your comprehensive eye exam today.

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How To Treat An Ocular Migraine

Ocular migraines are treated the same way as other migraines, and both medications and lifestyle changes may help to cut down symptoms and reduce the number of migraines you have.

Migraine medications fall into two categories: drugs that help stop migraines when they happen and drugs that prevent migraines.

Medications you can take when you get a migraine include:

Medications you can take daily to prevent migraines include:

  • Beta-blocker medications like propranolol
  • Certain antidepressants like amitriptyline
  • Anti-seizure drugs including topiramate and Valproate

There are also new prescription monoclonal antibody drugs which may be self-injected monthly or every few months which have been effective for many people in preventing migraine.

Lifestyle changes are also a key way to prevent migraines. “I generally recommend that people maintain a routine lifestyle because the brain thrives on a regular routine,” Hindiyeh says.

Hindiyeh recommends several helpful lifestyle changes, including:

  • Sleeping and waking up at the same time every day and avoiding naps
  • Eating regular meals
  • Doing some aerobic exercise every day where you get your heart rate up and sweat, like jogging or biking

It’s also important to avoid ocular migraine triggers like bright digital screens as much as possible.

What Are The Visual Changes Of Migraine

Changes in sight usually occur in both eyes, but sometimes in only part of the visual field.1 There are three general types of visual changes with migraine:1

  • Positive symptoms: This describes seeing something that is not really there, like shimmery zig-zag lines, sparkles, dots, or flashes.
  • Negative symptoms: This describes blind spots or tunnel vision.
  • Distorted or altered visual symptoms: This describes a sense of looking through water or colorful, cracked glass. Objects may appear too big or too small.

Ocular migraine is a medical term for a migraine that includes visual distortions.2 Ocular means connected to the eye. An ocular migraine may be classed as migraine with aura or retinal migraine. In retinal migraine, changes in vision only happen in 1 eye before or during the painful part of a migraine attack.2

Also Check: Medication For Seizures And Migraines

What Facts Should I Know About Visual Migraines

Migraine headache is one of the most common complaints in medicine today. Migraineheadaches usually involve one side of the head. Various early symptoms may occur before a typical migraine episode. Other symptoms, together known as an aura, may also occur before a migraineheadache, or they may begin when the headache starts.


  • In children younger than 10 years, boys appear to have migraines more often than girls. After puberty starts, migraine headaches are much more common in females.
  • In general, the rate of migraine occurrence in males drops to a low by age 28-29.
  • For females, the rate of migraine occurrence with aura peaks at age 12-13 years .
  • Migraine occurrence among females increases sharply up to age 40 years and then declines gradually. The male peak rate is slightly less and decreases over a broader age range.


  • The age when migraine headache with aura begins appears to peak at or before age 4-5 years, while the highest rate for migraine without aura occurs at age 10-11 years.
  • Data suggests that migraine is a chronic condition, although long remissions are common.
  • The severity and frequency of attacks tend to lessen with age.

What Do Visual Migraines Look Like?

See images .

How To Address Chronic Eye Strain & Headaches

High blood pressure symptoms: Does your headache affect ...

When long-lasting eye strain leads to chronic headaches, it can be very disruptive to your daily life.

Fortunately, eye strain does not cause permanent damage or injury to the eye, and the condition can often be treated relatively easily. By making simple changes to your working, reading, and driving environments, you can likely address the issues that are straining your eyes and causing headaches.

AAO offers these tips to address chronic eye strain:

  • Confirm your glasses or contacts are the correct prescription for your vision needs.
  • Use sunglasses when outside in bright light.
  • Use artificial tears to address dry eyes..
  • Adjust your computer screen so you must gaze slightly downward at it.
  • Use a humidifier to improve dry air quality.
  • Wear computer glasses to reduce the impact of blue light.

If you continue to experience eye strain and headaches after trying a variety of adjustments, it might be a good idea to see an ophthalmologist. Through an eye exam, your eye doctor can examine your eye muscles, assess for underlying eye or health problems, and confirm you are wearing the proper eyeglass or contact lens prescription. They may be able to identify the cause of your eye strain during this exam.

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What Are The Exams And Tests To Diagnose Visual Migraines

Laboratory studies

In older persons, the doctor may order specific laboratory studies in order to rule out physical causes like giant cell arteritis , brain tumor, meningitis, or brain hemorrhage. Other causes should be ruled out using appropriate laboratory and/or radiographic tests.

Imaging studies

A CT scan of the head may be done to rule out head trauma, brain tumor, bleeding, or blockages as causes.

An MRI/MRA of the head may be done to help rule out tumors or problems with the blood vessels.

Other tests

Visual-field testing should be done for those who have lasting visual problems.

Diagnostic procedures

A lumbar puncture may be done to rule out infection, inflammation, elevated pressure in the head, or bleeding in the membranes covering the brain. When appropriate, the doctor may look inside arteries of the head and neck with a tiny camera, a procedure called endoscopy.



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