Could Your Headaches Be Due To Eye Problems
If youre suffering from frequent headaches, ask yourself, When was my last eye checkup?
A routine eye exam can turn up a variety of issues that may be causing headaches. In some cases staring at the computer screen too long, or working on overly bright or dim light may be the culprit. Adjusting workplace lighting, or remembering to take a break every hour or so to give your eyes a rest can remedy those problems.
There are also some common eye conditions that may result in headaches if untreated. They are:
- Astigmatism, in which the cornea is not properly shaped, and requires you to squint in order to focus your vision.
- Hyperopia, or long-sightedness.
- Presbyopia, a condition in which the lens has become hard and inflexible with age, making it difficult to focus.
Why Do Vision Changes Happen With Migraine
Doctors have a few ideas of what may cause vision changes during a migraine attack. Changes to electrical charges in the cortex of the brain may be the cause. Retinal migraine may be caused by the same electrical changes in the eye. Lack of blood flow to certain areas of the brain or eye may be the problem.2
More research is needed to find out what causes the visual changes that come with migraine.
What Are The Symptoms Of Visual Disturbance
- Flashes of light
- These may start in the periphery of your sight, and become larger and more central
- They may be black and white or brightly coloured
- Typically described as a zigzagging pattern, or giving the appearance of shards of glass
- They may be apparent when your eyes are shut
- The disturbance affects your sight and both eyes are affected.
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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.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundations subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. to read about our editorial board members.
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
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Other Causes Of Blurry Vision
Sometimes, vision can start to blur gradually. These non-emergency conditions still require diagnosis and treatment from an eye doctor. Causes of blurred vision might include:
Treatment Of Blurred Vision And Headache
Treatment of blurred vision and headache depends on the underlying cause of these symptoms. If your symptoms only occurred once, then you are unlikely to require any treatment.
If your symptoms are caused by low blood sugar, then eating a fast-acting carbohydrate such as candy or fruit juice will rapidly boost your blood sugar levels.
In case the symptoms are being caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, then you will be treated with oxygen, either by being placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber or through a mask.
Depending on the cause of your blurred vision and headache, the treatment may include:
- Blood thinners
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How Is Blurred Vision Treated
The cause of your blurred vision will be diagnosed using various eye tests and a physical examination of your eyes. If an underlying medical cause is suspected, you may also have a blood test.
The treatment of your blurred vision will depend on the cause. It might include eye drops, laser surgery or medicines.
If you have blurred vision, you may need to wear glasses or contact lenses.
Tracking Your Migraine Symptoms
Keeping a record of your migraine symptoms may help you figure out patterns and triggers to your attacks. It may be helpful to record such things as:
- When and where your pain or symptoms start
- Whether the pain spreads to your entire head or neck
- How well and how quickly acute treatment helps reduce the pain or other symptoms
- How long your pain or symptoms last
- Whether you experience other symptoms such as vision changes, nausea, or light sensitivity
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Neurological Causes For Blurry Vision And Headache
Conditions that affect the brain, nerves or spinal cord can also lead to blurry vision and headaches. Its important to seek medical attention quickly after symptoms begin, as some of these conditions can be life-threatening.
Pseudotumor cerebri Occurs when fluid collects in the brain. Symptoms also include ringing in ears, dizziness, depression, nausea and vomiting.
Stroke In addition to blurred vision and sudden extreme headache, symptoms include confusion, numbness or weakness in half of the body/face, trouble speaking and lack of coordination.
Brain trauma Traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion, presents symptoms like confusion, dizziness, sleepiness, ringing in the ears, confusion, nausea/vomiting, loss of consciousness and trouble with memory or concentration.
Temporal arteritis Occurs when blood vessels near your temples become inflamed. Common symptoms include a throbbing, persistent headache on both sides of your head, jaw pain, fever, muscle aches, and scalp or temple sensitivity.
What Is Migraine Aura Without Pain
Migraine aura without pain includes changes in vision or changes in the other senses and speech but no head pain. Symptoms gradually build over 5 to 20 minutes and then go away after about 1 hour. The lack of head pain sets it apart from other types of migraine with aura. Also, no other disorder can be found to be blamed for the symptoms.1
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How Do I Stop Dizziness From Anxiety
If you are currently feeling dizzy, try the following:
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.
Can Poor Eyesight Trigger Migraines
Poor eyesight is not commonly a trigger for migraine. Although it can cause eyestrain and headaches in some people. Poor eyesight isnt even in the top 10 most common causes of headaches!
Refractive errors, like astigmatism, myopia, hyperopia or presbyopia when uncorrected or under corrected can cause muscle tension. If you squint to see better, you are tensing the muscles in your forehead and around your eyes. Or you may find you lean closer to your computer screen, or lift your chin to try and see through the bottom of your spectacles. These changes to posture and muscle tension around the head, neck and shoulders is a very common cause of headaches. So, having up to date and properly fitting spectacles can actually reduce your muscle tension.
Despite this, when looking for the underlying cause of your headaches or migraines, having a full and thorough eye examination is still high on the list of priorities. Refractive errors may not be a common cause of headache or migraine, but they can contribute to the frequency and intensity of the head pain. There are also other eye related conditions that can cause visual disturbances or headaches such as Angle Closure Glaucoma and Age Related Macular Degeneration.
What about in children?
If you experience migraine headaches, we recommend consulting your doctor and/or eye care professional. They can help you get to the cause and come up with a treatment plan.
Migraines Stage Three: Headache
Sometimes this stage is being called the attack stage. The change in terminology acknowledges that not all migraines present with a headache . Besides the painful headache, what other symptoms are possible during the attack phase?
- Sensory sensitivities Patients may experience sensitivity to bright or glaring light, strong scents, repetitive or loud sounds, and even increased sensitivity to touch.
- Nausea and vomiting Fortunately, it is far more common to experience nausea without vomiting, but for some patients the pain and nausea are too great, and vomiting is the result.
- Vertigo You may feel like the whole world is spinning around you. Up to 40% of migraines present with vestibular symptoms like vertigo or balance issues.
- Sinus congestion Some patients have even confused their migraines for sinus headaches because of this symptom
- Neck pain This is, once again, one of the most common migraine symptoms
There are many other possible symptoms of a migraine, but these are the most common.
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Common Causes Of Blurry Vision In One Eye
Some common causes of blurred vision in one eye include:
Refractive errors include astigmatism, nearsightedness , and farsightedness . These are some of the most common eye problems that cause blurred vision in one eye.
Corneal abrasion refers to trauma to the eye. This can occur through injury from a foreign object.
If your retina tears from the back of your eye it will lose its nerve and blood supply. You’ll see black flecks followed by blurred or absent vision.
Some medicines can lead to blurred vision in one eye. However, they would usually affect both eyes.
Diabetes can lead to cataracts or retinal conditions that result in blurred vision.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration causes a loss of vision in the macula. This is the part of the retina responsible for noticing detail in the central vision.
Cataracts are the loss of transparency or clouding in the lens of the eye.
Dry eyes can lead to blurry sight issues.
Conditions that occur in the brain, like migraines, can lead to blurriness in one or both eyes.
Presbyopia is age-related farsightedness. Typically, presbyopia causes blurred vision up close in both eyes. But it may be more pronounced in one eye if you have different refractive errors.
Giant cell arteritis
How Are Blurred Vision And Headache Treated
Treatment will depend on the cause of your blurred vision and headache. Each condition will involve different medications and treatment regimens.
In cases involving emergency conditions, your first responsibility is to get medical attention as quickly as possible. Your medical team will then be able to advise you of treatment options.
Your doctor will choose tests to diagnose conditions quickly that require emergency care or urgent care so that treatment can be started. They will then decide on further evaluations and treatments.
Can Migraine Affect Vision
Regular migraine attacks can also cause vision problems, called an aura, which can involve flashing lights and blind spots. But these symptoms usually happen in both eyes. Talk to your doctor to find out if you have ocular migraine. They can rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.
Migraines Stage Two: Aura
Symptoms in this migraine stage usually occur within the hour before the headache occurs. Most symptoms of aura are visual, and this is the stage where will answer our title question: Can migraines cause double vision? Here are some of the symptoms of migraine with aura.
- Uncontrolled movements
- Speech problems
- Numbness or weakness in the face and the limbs
- Vision loss Fortunately, vision loss associated with migraines is temporary and usually resolves within an hour
- Visual disturbances including seeing flashes of light, floaters of different shapes and sizes, and yes, blurred or double vision
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Vertigo And Motion Sickness
Vertigo is a sudden feeling of imbalance and spinning that occurs even while a person is sitting or standing still. Blurred vision often occurs with the dizziness of a vertigo spell. Some common causes of vertigo include dehydration, migraine headaches and sudden head movement.
Motion sickness can be triggered by continuous movement in a variety of circumstances, including traveling in a car or standing next to a moving body of water. Motion sickness can have other uncomfortable feelings, such as nausea, dizziness and occasionally blurred vision.
Visual Disturbances Can Occur In Both Eyes
Migraine-related visual symptoms are usually seen in BOTH eyes. Sometimes this is hard to determine, as the symptoms may occur only on ONE SIDE of the visual field. Covering one eye, and then the other, helps to figure out whether the symptoms come from the brain , or the eye .* The visual symptoms of migraine fall under three general categories: positive symptoms, negative symptoms and altered/distorted vision.
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How Do You Treat Visual Disturbance
Firstly, do not panic visual disturbances can be frightening, but in most cases are short lived. If you are driving or operating machinery, stop what you are doing and wait for the symptoms to go away. Make a note of your symptoms, how long they lasted and what you were doing just before they began. In most cases, there is a common trigger and keeping a diary of symptoms can help work out what the trigger is. Simply avoiding the trigger, where possible, may be all you need to do.
Common triggers include:
- flashing or flickering lights
Blurred Vision And Headaches
Blurry vision can be a frustrating, and sometimes scary, thing to experience. Even worse is when a throbbing headache accompanies your blurry vision.
While a headache may feel like the result of uncorrected blurry vision, it’s very possible that, together, your headache and blurred vision could be symptoms of a more worrisome underlying condition.
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How Can I Prevent Blurred Vision With A Migraine
Treatment for blurred vision involves preventing migraines or using medication to treat the headache soon after it starts, before the blurred vision begins.
- If you notice that stress or certain foods trigger migraines, avoiding those foods might reduce the number of headaches you get, as will exercise or meditation if stress is a factor.
- Over-the-counter migraine medications are available in stores, but this type of medication often isn’t strong enough to treat the severe pain common with migraines.
- Your doctor can prescribe medications that treat pain and prevent migraines.
Blurred vision is usually temporary and gets better as your headache improves. If blurred vision continues, it could be unrelated to your migraine and be a sign of a more serious condition, such as retinal detachment or stroke, so be sure to check with your doctor.