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 .
Should You Talk To An Eye Doctor
When vision loss occurs, it is always best to consult with an eye doctor. Even though the symptoms of an ocular migraine are temporary, you should seek medical support to watch for signs of other eye conditions that could result in permanent vision loss.
An immediate eye exam can be completed to look for signs that you might be dealing with a more serious condition. The symptoms of an ocular migraine can be similar to those of retinal detachment. If you are experiencing retinal detachment instead of an ocular migraine, immediate treatment is essential to minimize permanent vision loss.
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Diagnosis Of Retinal Migraine
There are no diagnostic tests to confirm retinal migraine. Diagnosis is accomplished by reviewing the patients personal and family medical history, studying their symptoms, and conducting an examination. Retinal migraine is then diagnosed by ruling out other causes for the symptoms. With retinal migraine, it is essential that other causes of transient blindness, such as stroke of the eye , be fully investigated and ruled out. Seeing an eye doctor for a full eye exam is generally required for a good look at the back of the eyes.
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Causes And Risk Factors
Although the exact physiology of retinal migraine is unknown, one theory is that it may result from vasospasm, a narrowing of vessels that supply blood to the retina or that are part of the ciliary body of the eye.
Whatever the mechanism, like all types of migraine headaches, retinal migraines tend to be brought on by specific triggers such as stress, high blood pressure, smoking, and more.
Retinal migraines, in particular, may be triggered by:
- Staring at a screen for long periods
- Spending time in fluorescent or other harsh lighting
- Driving long distances or participating in other taxing visual activities
People believed to be at increased risk of retinal migraine headaches include those who:
- Are in their 20s or 30sin particular women, due to hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle
- Have a history of other types of migraine
- Have a family history of migraine headache
- Have lupus, atherosclerosis, or sickle cell disease
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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Headaches Behind The Eye Or Ocular Migraines
Its important not to confuse ocular migraines with generalised headaches behind the eye. Ocular migraines happen as a result of reduced blood flow to the eye, due to a sudden narrowing of the blood vessels, and usually occur in just one eye.
On the other hand, headaches behind the eyes are usually a symptom of traditional headache-type migraines, which can be caused by a number of conditions and external stimuli. Sensitivity to bright light , some prescription medications or simply staring at digital screens for too long can all lead to migraines and headaches behind the eyes.
Treatment For Retinal Migraine
Treatment for retinal migraine usually just involves taking pain relief for any headaches and reducing exposure to anything that might be triggering the retinal migraine.
Your doctor may sometimes prescribe preventative medication to try and reduce how often you get a migraine. Your doctor will discuss the best way to treat your symptoms with you.
There is no one best way to treat retinal migraine. Your doctor may have to try several different medications to see what works best for you.
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Ocular And Visual Migraines: Prevention And Treatment Options
An ocular migraine can be quite alarming since the symptoms often cause temporary vision loss. Even though ocular migraines are rare, the occurrence of a migraine can have a debilitating result. Whether you have a history of migraines or you are experiencing this condition for the first time, it is recommended that you talk to an experienced eye doctor to discuss treatment options.
Key Symptoms Distinguish Retinal Migraines From Migraines With Aura
Retinal migraines also known as retinal migraines are rare, affecting approximately 1 in 200 people. Theyre often confused with migraines with aura, though theyre actually very different.
The hallmark symptom of a retinal migraine is vision loss in one eye lasting less than an hour, and often in reoccurring bouts. Its important to distinguish between vision impairment in one eye one as opposed to one side of your field of vision the latter being a symptom with aura. Like other migraine types, retinal migraines generally cause head pain for most. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to lights and sound. It should also be noted that vision loss in one can be a sign of a different, more serious issue if you experience vision loss in one eye, consult a doctor immediately.
Retinal migraines arent fully understood by scientists. Its thought that the vision impairment may be caused by a spasm of blood vessels around the eye, which cuts off blood flow. For some, retinal migraines may be precipitated by exercise.
If you think you might be suffering from retinal migraines or if youre experiencing vision loss in any way its best to see a doctor.
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Ocular Migraine: Causes Symptoms Treatment And Used Medication
Ocular migraines cause vision loss or loss of sight in one eye that lasts less than an hour. You can have them in addition to or after a migraine headache. Professionals often call them visual, retinal, ophthalmic, or monocular migraines.
This problem is uncommon. It affects about 1 out of every 200 people who have migraines. Some research recommends that in a lot of cases, the symptoms are because of other problems.
Routine migraines can likewise cause vision problems, called an aura, which can include flashing lights and blind spots in your vision. However these symptoms usually appear in both eyes.
See your doctor to learn if you have ocular migraines. He can dismiss other conditions that can cause comparable symptoms. Be prepared to explain your symptoms as entirely as you can that will help your doctor know whats really going on.
Ocular migraines are more typical in young women, and might happen more typically in those who have a history of migraine headaches with aurae .
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The visual cues are hard to ignore: shimmering or flashing lights, zigzagging lines or stars, black spots. All make it difficult to read, write, or drive. If you experience these symptoms, youre most likely having an ocular migraine. It can occur with or without the pain of a migraine headache.
For people prone to migraines, one of every five has this visual aura before the headache pain begins. An ocular migraine by itself lasts anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and isnt considered a serious condition.
Headache specialist Richard Kim, MD, describes a migraine with aura.
Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.
What is a migraine with aura?
Although some doctors think ocular migraines are caused by the same factors that create classic migraines, no one knows for certain. Ocular migraines seem to run in families. They have been linked to estrogen, a female hormone that fluctuates during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, or with use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapies.
Most ocular and retinal migraines dont require treatment.
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Are Ocular Migraines Small Strokes
Although strokes have similar characteristics and symptoms as ocular migraine, stroke is not necessarily a cause of ocular migraine. Conversely, ocular migraines are not small strokes. The similarity in symptoms make this a common concern, but there are subtle differences.
- Stroke is sudden, ocular migraine occurs gradually
- A stroke takes away vision, while ocular migraine adds visual stimuli
- Stroke is not genetic, but ocular migraine often reflects family history
Knowing the difference between ocular migraine and stroke can save your life.
What Causes Visual Migraines
While the exact cause of visual migraines are still uncertain, some researchers believe that they are caused by spasms or changes in the retinal blood vessels or nerves.
However, most doctors believe that they are caused by the same factors that lead to the classic migraine, including:
- Family history of migraines
- Foods containing nitrates, MSG, or tyramine
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Treatment For Retinal Migraines
There are no clear guidelines for the management of patients with retinal migraine. For infrequent attacks, medications used for other forms of migraine are often employed to relieve the other symptoms. These medications can include NSAIDs and antinausea medications. Triptans and ergotamines are avoided in these patients. Preventive therapies used for other migraines types should be explored, such as the calcium channel blockers, antiepileptic or tricyclic medications. Daily aspirin is considered for these people as well. People should stop smoking and discontinuation of oral contraceptives may be advisable.
How Long Do Retinal Migraine Headaches Last
The headache phase of a retinal migraine begins during or within 60 minutes of the visual symptoms.
People suspected of having retinal migraine should be carefully assessed by their doctor for an underlying cause. As well, they should be evaluated to make sure that they do not have a different primary headache disorder that can mimic retinal migraine. Other primary headache disorders that mimic retinal migraine include migraine with typical aura.
In retinal migraine the visual symptoms should only be present when looking through one eye. For example if you look through the right eye and close the left eye, you see twinkling lights but when you look through the left eye and close the right eye your vision is normal. In migraine with typical aura, when you alternate which eye you look through the visual disturbance will be seen with either eye but possibly more prominent with one eye or the other. This is because in retinal migraine the vision symptoms are coming from the eye , while in migraine with typical aura the vision symptoms are coming from the brain . The distinction between retinal migraine and migraine with typical aura is important for treatment considerations and counselling regarding future outcomes. Irreversible visual loss may be a complication of retinal migraine but not migraine with typical aura. It is unclear how often permanent vision loss occurs with retinal migraine and there are no identified predictors for this currently.
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Tips For Managing And Preventing Visual Migraines
If your visual migraine occurs frequently, here are some tips to help you prevent or manage the condition.
- Acupressure. This is an evidence-based practice of applying pressure with hands to specific points on the body to relieve pain and other symptoms. It can be an effective alternative therapy for migraine headaches.
- Lavender oil. Lavender oil can be inhaled or applied diluted to the temples to ease your migraine pain.
- Peppermint oil. According to a 2010 study, the menthol in peppermint oil can minimize migraines.6 The research showed that applying menthol to the forehead and temples relieved migraine-related pain, nausea, and light sensitivity.
- Yoga. Yoga uses breathing, meditation, and body postures to promote health and well-being, relieving the frequency, duration, and intensity of migraines.
- Massage therapy. Massage reduces stress and enhances coping skills. It also lowers heart rate, anxiety, and cortisol levels.
- Herbal supplements. Butterbur and feverfew are common herbal remedies that may aid with migraine pain and frequency reduction.
- Avoid Triggers. Ocular migraine triggers such as caffeinated foods, alcohol, dehydration, smoking, or stress
- Unwind at the end of the day. Basic things like listening to soothing music or taking a warm bath after a long day can help your body relax and prevent migraines.
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.
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Diet Nutrition & Lifestyle Choices
Evidence is beginning to support the idea that migraine headaches are associated with mitochondria dysfunction. Supplements such as riboflavin , coenzyme Q10, magnesium3, niacin, carnitine, and lipoic acid, which support mitochondrial function, have been shown to help alleviate migraine headaches.2
- Be sure to also read our lifestyle recommendations for migraine headaches.
- See our essential visionwellness tips for this eye condition.
- Stress. Manage stress – meditate, take cool walks in the morning, do yoga … whatever works well for you.
- Computer. Avoid long hours on the computer and take frequent breaks.
- Exercise regularly, at least 3x weekly. Exercise reduces the amount of pain from migraines although it does not directlystop migraines by itself.
- Pay attention to what you eat in the event that the ocular migraines are tied to an allergy.
- Sleep routine. Wake up at the same time each morning, and get plenty of sleep at night
- Finally, acupuncture is worth considering.
How To Get Rid Of A Visual Migraine
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Facing The Music: Getting Help From A Professional
For almost a year, I had times when I would see a certain shimmering in my eyes. I ignored it. If I was working on my computer, I found a reason to get up and do something, and usually, when I sat back down, it was gone. The picture you see is the “pattern.” The jagged lines follow no particular shape. They seem to be random, just silver-colored lines.
My husband and I have a knack for ignoring any health problem until it becomes impossible to do so any longer. I remember having the jagged lights frequently before I decided they might be a warning of a stroke. At that point, I bit the bullet. The thing that made them “different” or caused me to make a decision about getting help was the fact that I was working on an expedited deposition and could no longer see well enough to continue working. When they occurred before, I always got up and walked around, I suppose, long enough for them to go away. Sitting still made me realize they were obscuring my vision.
What I see when in the throes of an ocular migraine: disrupted images.
How To Treat And Prevent Ocular Migraines
There is usually no treatment needed for an ocular migraine, as the symptoms disappear on their own within the hour. However, if you experience visual disturbances alongside a migraine headache, see your optician or GP for additional advice on treatment.
The most common treatment for ocular migraines includes pain relief for headaches and being able to reduce your exposure to any known triggers. It may be helpful to make a diary of your diet and lifestyle, especially anything that happens just before an episode. These records could lead to an established pattern of what triggers your ocular migraines, allowing you to try and reduce the frequency.
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