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.
Theres A Genetic Link Too
Hemilplegic migraine is the one migraine type that has a confirmed genetic link. Researchers have identified 3 different genetic mutations which can each cause hemiplegic migraine.
There are now four familial subtypes:
- Familial hemilplegic migraine is diagnosed when at least one first- or second-degree relative also has the symptoms of hemiplegic migraine.
- Familial hemilplegic migraine, type 1 is diagnosed when there is a confirmed causative mutation on the CACNA1A gene on chromosome 19 in addition to the symptoms listed above.
- Familial hemilplegic migraine, type 2 is diagnosed when there is a confirmed causative mutation on the ATP1A2 gene on chromosome 1 in addition to the symptoms listed above.
- Familial hemilplegic migraine, type 3 is diagnosed when there is a confirmed causative mutation on the SCN1A gene on chromosome 2 in addition to the symptoms listed above.
Is Your Treatment Working
After you have treated two or three headaches, ask yourself some simple questions. Are you getting the relief you need? If not, you should ask your doctor about altering treatment. Be sure you take medications early in the attack — at least within two hours of migraine pain. If medications are not working, your doctor may prescribe use of an external medical device that stimulates the trigeminal nerve, the vagus nerve or nerves in the back of the head that are linked to migraines.
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What Can Cause Kaleidoscope Vision
The most common cause of kaleidoscope vision is an ocular migraine, which is a migraine accompanied by visual symptoms. About 20% of people who suffer from migraines experience some type of aura, also known as a sensory disturbance. Other forms of auras include tingling in the hands or face, muscle weakness, and difficulty speaking.
What Causes Ocular Migraines
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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A Closer Look At The Different Types Of Migraine Aura
According to the American Migraine Foundation, only about 25-30 percent of individuals with migraines experience auras. Doctors and researchers are often puzzled as to why auras and migraines go together, yet not everyone who gets migraines experiences auras along with them. For those who do experience auras, theyre often the warning sign that a migraine attack is imminent.
What are auras? What types of migraines come with auras? How do you treat migraines with auras? Heres a closer look at the answers to those questions and more.
Adjustments Are Customized For The Patient
When you visit an upper cervical chiropractor, a thorough examination is done to measure the extent of your misalignment. Not everyone who comes into our office requires the same adjustment. Based on your individualized measurements, the adjustment you receive at an upper cervical chiropractic clinic will be tailor-built for you. The obvious benefits of such a specific adjustment are that they require very little force and may hold in place for longer.
If you live with the unpredictable nature of migraines, then having your neck and atlas alignment checked by an upper cervical chiropractor is an essential step. As you work with your doctor of chiropractic to achieve healthy head and neck positioning, the improvement of your alignment can also benefit neurological communication and blood/CSF flow. Migraine sufferers who participated in several upper cervical chiropractic care studies reported a significant decrease in their symptoms and a subsequent increase in quality of life. Learning more is easy and obligation-free. You may start by browsing our website content, which will also help you to locate an upper cervical practitioner near you.
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Diagnosing Migraine With Aura
ICHD III criteria for migraine with aura is:
A) At least 2 attacks fulfilling criteria B and C
B) 1 or more of the following fully reversible aura symptoms:
2) No motor or retinal symptoms.
Not all symptoms are listed here but brainstem auras can cause what feels like very strange outer body experiences. Sometimes it is referred to as Alice in Wonderland syndrome which is a rare but distinctive distortion of body image and perspective. This syndrome can occur at any age and is thought to be more common amongst children.
Common Visual Disturbances Include:
- Distortions in the size & shape of objects.
- Vibrating visual field.
- Shimmering pulsating patches or curves.`
Other aura sensations include:
- Abdominal symptoms such as nausea or a rising sensation in the stomach.
- Sudden anxiety or fear.
- Feeling separated from your body.
- Sensation of limbs or teeth growing.
- Feeling overheated.
- Confusion, reduced mental cognition, forgetting common words or how to do simple tasks.
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Why Does An Ocular Migraine Happen
Its believed that ocular migraines have similar causes as a migraine headache. Both may have a genetic link, with those who have a family history of migraines being more susceptible to them.
The cause of ocular migraines can be down to reduced blood flow in the retina. The blood vessels to the eye suddenly narrow, reducing the blood flow to the eye. Many triggers may contribute to the onset of an ocular migraine, and they may differ from person to person.
Triggers can include stress, lack of sleep, smoking and certain foods like caffeine, chocolate or red wine. Ocular migraines are more common in women, and more common amongst those under 40.
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Headaches Behind The Eye In People Over 40
In particular, people over the age of 40 may begin experiencing headaches behind the eyes more frequently as they get older due to a condition called presbyopia. As the eyes age, it can become more difficult for them to focus on objects up-close, causing them to squint and strain in order to see more clearly. This strain can lead to feelings of pain behind the eyes, alongside soreness and redness.
With other common conditions such as blurry vision, digital eye strain, and difficulty seeing up-close, its best to have your eyesight checked by an optician if youre concerned.
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Migraine
Symptoms can vary from person to person. If someone gets a migraine, they may experience one or more of the following: nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound , dizziness, and confusion. They might also have sensory changes such as numbness in their limbs or face tingling sensations around their mouth shooting pain along one side of the head that is often worse when bending over tender scalp muscles feeling hot then cold with profuse sweating – all without any aura before it sets in. This type of attack lasts anywhere between four hours to three days depending on severity. The worst part about this condition is that it’s unpredictable.
What a migraine looks like can depend on what the person has been experiencing leading up to its onset and how severe it is.
Auras are more common in people with a family history of migraines, while others experience their first attack without any warning at all.
Others might have whats called “silent” or “common” migraine these involve tension headaches which they may mistake for stress-related headaches because there isn’t usually an accompanying aura before it sets in as well as what we think of when we hear the term migraine.”
Some also get what’s known as hemiplegic or ophthalmic migraines where one side of the body goes numb or where one side of the visual field becomes blurry.
What Is A Migraine Aura
Aura is a set of sensory disturbances that occur shortly before the headache phase of a migraine attack and can last from 5 to 60 minutes. Visual auras are the most common, but they can also be motor, verbal, or sensory. A visual aura affects the vision cortex of your brain, which processes optical signals. During an aura, electrical nerve impulses across the vision cortex cause visual hallucinations. Similarly, when other areas of the brain endure impairement, it can create a sensory aura that can cause numbness and tingling in the limbs or face. Speech and language issues are also possible. These auras are temporary phenomena that will subside when the migraine attack is over.
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When To Call A Doctor About Your Migraines
If you’re not getting satisfactory relief from over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes, or if you’re taking over-the-counter medications more than 10 to 15 times per month, talk to your primary care physician about your headaches.
“The evaluation of headaches usually starts with the primary care doctor, who assesses whether a patient has a common headache or something more serious,” says Santiago Mazuera Mejia, MD, a neurologist at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute at LifeBridge Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “Primary care doctors often continue to see people with infrequent migraines. However, if at some point, there is a need for more complex treatments, patients usually go to neurologists and headache specialists who have additional training in preventive and acute treatments as well as nonmedical treatments.”
It’s important to get evaluated by a doctor because taking over-the-counter medications too frequently can sometimes lead to serious side effects or actually make you get headaches more often.
It’s helpful to keep a diary if you experience migraines because you may discover your triggers, which can inform which type of treatment is best for you. Write down what time your migraines occur, how long they last, how you slept the night before, what you ate/drank that day and when, how you felt emotionally that day, etc. Then bring that information to your doctor.
What Aura Looks Like
Melynda Her aura appears as a wavy kaleidoscope of lines that grows and eventually fills her vision in her right eye, she can just barely see it in her left eye as well.
Jon His aura is a sparkly kaleidoscopic crescent just off center in his field of vision in both eyes, sometimes it will take on a twisty snake like shape. Occasionally, he will get a less distinct foggy aura in his peripheral vision that slowly moves towards the center.
Emily Her aura starts as a speck and grows across her field of vision. It looks to her like parts of reality have been replaced with a bronze kaleidoscope-like effect, as if there is a tear in space that the aura is behind. Usually it forms a diagonal line across her vision, but sometimes it is circular.
Mike He is almost always triggered by lack of sleep and dehydration. Typically his aura begins with a hole in his vision or the disappearance of the bottom or a persons face or a car in front of him and to the left while driving . The hole in the vision will transition to something like a jagged zipper structure of lights in his lower vision.
Caitlin Her aura is like an oil spill of shimmering colors, a black spot or small spinning dots. Its usually on the left side of her visual field.
Danielle Her scintillating scotoma is first noticed when it looks like half of a persons face has disappeared. After a few minutes a sparkly spiral appears. Both of those effects usually fade within a half an hour. Head pain may or may not follow.
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What Medications Treat Migraines
Drug therapy is mainly aimed at lessening pain during the early and generally most painful phases of migraine headaches. Those who have repeated migraine episodes may need long-term preventive therapy. The following drugs are used to quickly stop migraine headaches in progress. They are often called abortive drugs because they abort, or stop, the headache. These drugs are used only to treat headaches and do not help relieve problems like back pain, arthritis, or menstrual cramps. The first group of drugs is within the triptan class. Drugs in this class are all very similar in their action and chemical structure and target the brain chemical serotonin. If 2-3 of these drugs have been tried without success, it is unlikely that others within the class will help.
Can I Have A Visual Migraine Without A Headache
Definitely. It is actually very common to have a visual migraine without any headache. The medical term for this is acephalgic migraine, which literally means migraine symptoms without headache. Except for the absence of a headache, the visual symptoms in acephalgic migraine are identical to the episodes that accompany a classic migraine aura.
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What Does A Visual Aura Feel Like
Visual aura is an aura with visual symptoms. This is the most common kind, occurring in 90 to 99 percent of migraine auras. Besides being the most common kind, these auras are also the most varied, with many different and complex symptoms reported.
Common characteristics of visual aura can include:
- flashes of bright light
Do Flashes Always Mean Retinal Detachment
Flashes are brief sparkles or lightning streaks that are most easily seen when your eyes are closed. They often appear at the edges of your visual field. Floaters and flashes do not always mean that you will have a retinal detachment. But they may be a warning sign, so it is best to be checked by a doctor right away.
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Ocular Migraine Bringing Facts Into Focus
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Migraine aura can be a visual symptom that accompanies a migraine attack. Maybe you have heard of scintillating scotoma? Perhaps you heard of this term for migraine aura while you were browsing a website, or maybe your doctor mentioned it to you. What is it? What does it look like? Can it cause permanent vision loss? Is it an ocular migraine? If you are looking for answers to questions like these, you have come to the right place. Lets dive into it.
While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor.
Can Seizures Be Mistaken For Migraines
Migraine headaches and seizures share many similar symptoms and often a person with one disorder will experience the other. Seizure auras have many of the same symptoms as migraine auras. Many people who suffer seizures have severe headaches after their seizures because they are misdiagnosed as migraines.
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It Looks Like A Stroke
Hemiplegic migraine is a rare form of migraine, similar to migraine with aura. However, the aura of HM has some unique characteristics:
- aura symptoms include both motor weakness and visual, sensory, and/or aphasia
- one symptom begins gradually over 5 minutes
- other symptoms follow in succession
- each symptom can last for 5-60 minutes
- at least one symptom will be unilateral
- motor symptoms continue for the duration of the attack, up to 72 hours
A headache follows the aura within 60 minutes and lasts up to 72 hours if not treated. Because the aura symptoms closely resemble that of TIA and/or stroke. These must be ruled out first, these patients often undergo extensive medical testing before a diagnosis can be confirmed. This can delay treatment and prolong a patients suffering.
What Is The Migraine Aura
For those who experience migraine aura, it often signals an unmistakable warning of an impending migraine attack. Most commonly, an aura is a visual arc of scintillating, shining spots or shapes which begin in a small area of your central vision and gradually expand peripherally.
This movement across the visual field is attributed to a cortical spreading depression . CSD is a wave of electrically excitable neurons and their surrounding cells depolarising. The cells which are normally negatively charged become positively charged. What follows is a period of suppressed neural activity. Neural activity is believed to be the physical basis for thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.
For most people auras last 5-60 minutes which is usually followed by a moderate to severe head pain that characterizes migraine.
Types of Migraine Auras
Visual symptoms are felt in around 86% of those who experience a migraine with aura. There are also other types of migraine auras which are generally less well known.
These include sensory aura, language aura and motor aura.
In the same way a visual aura causes all sorts of disruption to vision, the sensory aura disrupts other senses. Smell, touch and hearing impairment or disruption are symptoms of the sensory aura.
Language aura refers to when speech and language systems are disrupted. Symptoms include difficulty speaking and finding the right word.
Motor aura results in muscle weakness or paralysis to one area or side of the body.
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