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.
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.
Are There Warning Signs Of An Ocular Migraine
Early Warning Signs. Unlike other kinds of headaches, an ocular migraine can provide victims with an early-warning system. The warning symptoms can occur up to three days before the onset of the migraine. Some of the recognized symptoms include irritability, excessive thirst, hunger, a sense of euphoria or just feeling off..
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How To Tell If Its Aura Or Something Else
Two distinguishing factors of migraine aura without headache is that it affects both eyesnot just one eyeand there is a build-up of the aura. The aura will often change during the first five minutes or so, and it can last up to an hour.
When a person experiences aura, it can be difficult to determine whether the visual disturbance is in one or both eyes. Dr. Digre has a simple exercise to help patients pinpoint whats going on: Open a book or something you can look at and read. Cover one eye and look at your book. If you can see the aura covering up the words on the page, you know its in that eye. Then cover the other eye, and if you still see the aura, you know its in that eye as well. I would encourage every person who has an aura to confirm that its in both eyes because that puts it in the occipital lobe and in the brain , she says.
Because many people with migraine experience visual symptoms or light sensitivity, it can be confusing to distinguish or describe exactly whats going on. Contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms and how to best evaluate and diagnose what youre experiencing.
Ocular Migraines: Common Questions And Answers
Below are some frequently asked questions about ocular migraines:
Can dehydration cause ocular migraines?
Dehydration is one of the triggers of ocular migraines. Keeping your body hydrated will help prevent or reduce the frequency of occurrence of migraines.
Can anxiety cause ocular migraines?
Just like dehydration, anxiety is also a trigger of ocular migraines. The symptoms of ocular migraines can also cause anxiety, which worsens ocular migraines.
Simple reassurance from your doctor will lower anxiety levels and decrease or eliminate ocular migraines.
Can high blood pressure cause ocular migraines?
Researchers are working to fully understand the relationship between high blood pressure and ocular migraines.
Current research points to the fact that migraine attacks are prevalent in people with high blood pressure.
Anyone suffering from high blood pressure is advised to get it under control, especially those with a known history of ocular migraines.
Are ocular migraines a symptom of a brain tumor?
A migraine that is accompanied by vision issues can be associated with certain tumors, such as the occipital lobe tumor.
Although this is a rare condition, migraines are common among patients with brain tumors.
Is an ocular migraine a sign of a stroke?
An ocular migraine is not necessarily a sign of a stroke, but can indicate increased risk.
However, research indicates that people with a history of ocular migraines are at a higher risk of stroke.
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What Are The Causes
The exact causes of ocular migraines are not definitively established. However, many scientists think that the symptoms that you experience happen because of reduced blood flow to the brain. Spasm in the blood vessels is what causes a reduction in blood flow.
The source of visual disturbances in ocular migraines is the retinal blood vessels. Contrarily, the source of migraines with aura is the occipital cortex, which is located at the base of the skull.
Since the source of the problem in aura migraines is not the eyes but the brain, you will still experience the sensory disturbances even when you close your eyes.
What Is Aura In The Eye
Auras, as mentioned before are symptoms related to a patients nervous system. These mainly indicate visual disturbances in the form of waves or light flashes and zigzag vision. Sometimes, auras may be in the form of motor or movement, sensory or sensations, verbal or speech disturbances. In addition, it weakens the body muscles or forces a person to feel as somebody his touching him/her. Each of the symptoms mentioned here starts gradually and forms for several minutes, while lasts for even an hour.
Aura in the eye symptoms include:
- Visual phenomena, which take place in the form of viewing different shapes, light flashes and bright spots, while in some cases, loss of vision
- Sensation of needles and pins in a leg or in an arm
- Numbness or weakness in the face or any particular side of a patients body
- Hearing music or noises
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Types Of Migraines With Visual Auras
When you experience visual auras from migraines, you may have one of two types of migraines.
While these migraines involve different clusters of neurons and nerves, they have similar triggers to other types of migraines. Both involve visual auras as the primary symptom. They often lead to head pain and other common migraine symptoms, but not always.
What To Do If You Have A Visual Disturbance
If you are suffering from visual disturbances
- Stop what you are doing. If you are driving, pull over as soon as you can do so safely.
- Stay calm. Most visual disturbances will pass in 10-30 minutes and are not likely to be a medical issue.
- Rest, often a cool dark room is most comforting.
- Take paracetamol, ibuprofen, diclofenac or naproxen whichever painkiller you have previously used comfortably and safely.
- Record, write down what you feel and see. Take special note of whether or not the disturbance is affecting one or both eyes.
Then, when you get a chance, contact your Optometrist or GP to discuss how soon you should be checked. In most cases these symptoms are not urgent.
But if you have sudden loss of sight in one or both eyes, or in a section of your vision, seek medical advice immediately.
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Preheadache Signs And Symptoms
Pre-migraine, also called prodrome, is the earliest of four stages of a migraine attack. This stage happens before an aura and may occur several hours to several days before a migraine attack begins.
Recognizing the symptoms of pre-migraine may help individuals avoid triggers and prevent an attack. Pre-migraine symptoms may be different for individuals and may include:
- constipation or diarrhea
prodrome vs. aura
While an aura happens right before or during a migraine attack, the prodrome stage can start days before to indicate an attack is coming on. Prodrome symptoms might include fatigue, irritability, or neck pain.
How Are Visual Auras Related To Migraines
Auras are most often associated with migraines as they indicate the beginning of a cascade of reactions among neurons in your brain. This is called cortical spreading depression, a term for a wave of electrical silence in which neurons in your cerebral cortex temporarily stop firing. After these neurons stop communicating with each other or other parts of your brain, a migraine headache begins.
Among people who suffer regularly from migraines, only 20% to 30% experience auras. A number of factors contribute, including genetics, hormonal changes, psychological stressors, nutrition and weather fluctuations.
Potential causes of ocular migraines, associated with visual auras, include:
- Alcoholic beverages, especially red wine.
- Food containing nitrates, tyramine, artificial sweeteners, or monosodium glutamate.
- Powerful odors, loud sounds, or bright lights.
Visual auras can make several daily tasks more difficult or dangerous. They can indicate that a painful migraine is about to begin. In rare cases, they may go away on their own after less than an hour. Auras can also indicate more serious problems that could harm your vision or your brain.
Migraines are the seventh leading cause of disability worldwide. While most people associate migraines with severe head pain and doctors sometimes refer to migraines as cluster headaches, many types of migraines exist and interfere with daily life. These include migraines involving visual auras or other visual disturbances.
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What Is Aura In The Eye & What Causes An Aura In The Eye
Aura in the eye, also called as migraine with aura or classic aura refers to a severe headache, which strikes along or after with various sensory disturbances. Here, the disturbances may include blind spots, light flashes, changes in the vision of a patient or tingling in his face or hand.
Migraine with aura or aura in the eye problem may result in throbbing pain or a sensation of pulse severely on a particular side of your head. In addition, sometimes, the problem accompanies vomiting, nausea and extreme sensitivity towards the sound and the light.
Migraine attacks may result in a huge pain for about few hours to 1 or 2 day and may become so much severe that pain disables. Aura or any other warning symptom may take place with or before you face with the headache problem. These include tingling, light flashes and blind spots.
The Importance Of Consulting A Doctor
Its important to visit a doctor if you experience migraine aura without headache frequently. This can help rule out other conditions that cause aura or visual disturbances and get an accurate diagnosis.
Episodic aura without headache is usually not a problem. Its a nuisance. It happens maybe one or two times a year, says Dr. Digre. Its the people who get the frequent aura without headache that I want to see, evaluate and make sure that nothing else is going on.
Your doctor can conduct an examination to make sure theres no sign of a visual field defect or permanent impairment, and may also order an MRI scan or bloodwork. Blood tests can help distinguish migraine aura without headache from other conditions such as autoimmune conditions. Persistent aura can be seen with a stroke, so getting the correct diagnosis is really important.
How Is An Ocular Migraine Diagnosed
Ocular migraine is diagnosed with a patient history, physical examination, and other tests such as:
- Eye screening test
- Patient sits in a chair in a room with the lights out
- A doctor looks through the lenses of the ophthalmoscope to examine the eyes
- Patient may be asked to look in various directions during the examination
What Causes Ocular And Visual Migraines
Currently, there is limited research on what causes ocular and visual migraines.
Although studies have shown a change in blood flow into the eye during ocular migraines,the exact cause of this change remains unclear.
However, scientists sometimes associate the condition with genetics, meaning it may run in the family.
According to research, up to 70% of migraine patients have a personal or family history of migraine.2
Migraine triggers play a vital role in the onset and frequency of migraines.
Common migraine triggers include:3
Advances In Migraine Treatment
The traditional treatment of migraines is to lower the levels of pain through NSAIDs and other pain relievers and through avoidance of potential migraine triggers to minimize future episodes. Other drugs used for migraine management are Beta-blockers, antidepressants, calcium channel blockers and anticonvulsants.
Newer drugs such as CGRP antagonists and Lasmiditan may have better outcomes in reducing migraine symptoms). Medicines such as NMDA receptor antagonists are likely to prevent or minimize the frequency and intensity of future episodes.
Is There A Connection Between Strokes And Ocular Migraines
Currently, there isnt a definitive answer. But some researchers believe that ocular migraine and stroke have a connection. The connection, they believe, has to do with damage to the cells lining your blood vessels. The inflammation of the cells can cause them to become stiff and hence increase the risk of suffering a stroke.
Also, people who have migraine with aura are twice as likely to suffer a stroke as those who have no migraines.
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Ocular Migraine And Visual Migraine Symptoms
Ocular migraine symptoms generally include a small blind spot that affects your central vision in one eye. This blind spot gets larger, making it impossible for you to drive safely or read with the affected eye.
In some cases, the entire visual field of one eye may be affected. Generally, the episode lasts less than an hour.
Visual migraine symptoms can vary, and may include:
Visual migraines often appear suddenly and may create the sensation of looking through a cracked window. The visual migraine aura usually moves across your field of view and disappears within 30 minutes.
A flickering blind spot in the center or near the center of your field of view
A wavy or zigzag ring of colored light surrounding a central blind spot
A blind spot that slowly migrates across your visual field
The symptoms of a visual migraine typically affect both eyes and last less than 30 minutes. A migraine headache may occur shortly after the symptoms of a visual migraine subside or no headache may occur.
If you’re experiencing a blind spot or other visual disturbance and you’re not sure if it’s an ocular migraine or a visual migraine , cover one eye at a time. If the visual disturbance affects just one eye, it’s probably an ocular migraine. If it affects both eyes, it’s likely a visual migraine.
What Are The Acute Treatments For Migraine
An isolated visual migraine, without headache, typically does not require any acute treatment, since the visual symptoms resolve on their own fairly quickly. The first few times someone experiences a visual migraine it usually causes a lot of anxiety. Once someone has become familiar with the symptoms of a visual migraine, new episodes no longer cause the same level of anxiety.
It can be helpful to try to rest during the episode. Some patients benefit from other strategies, including eating something, having caffeine, or taking an over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen .
Patients in whom the visual symptoms are accompanied by a severe headache often benefit from additional therapies. The goal of these medications is to try to cut short the headache before it becomes too severe. Some patients find naproxen , which is a stronger anti-inflammatory medication, to be helpful. Other patients try a class of medications known as triptans.
Triptans are specially designed to work on receptors on blood vessels and brain cells in order to halt a migraine at an early stage. Although there are a number of different triptans, made by several different pharmaceutical companies, each of these is approximately equally effective. Triptans are often taken orally, but also come as injections and nasal sprays. These medicines are generally not considered safe in patients with a history of strokes, heart attacks, or other vascular diseases.
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Learn More About Migraine Aura Without Headache Why You Should Visit A Doctor And Available Treatment Options
A small percentage of people with migraine experience an aura that is not followed by head pain. Migraine aura without headache is fairly uncommon and can be hard to distinguish from other visual disturbances, so we reached out to Dr. Kathleen Digre to learn more.
Dr. Digre is a distinguished professor of neurology and ophthalmology and director of the Headache Clinic at the University of Utah. She is also the immediate past president of the American Headache Society and a former president of the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society.