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Why Do Ocular Migraines Occur

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Why Migraines Happen and What to Do About It

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.

How Can I Treat Migraines Without Using Medicines

It is very important to remember that many of the most effective preventive treatments for migraines do not require any medications. Frequent aerobic exercise is an excellent example of an effective way to improve headaches. Other strategies may include better sleep habits, stress reduction, massage, yoga, and acupuncture.

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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Why Do These Migraines Happen

The exact cause of these migraines hasnt been isolated via clinical studies. However, medical experts tend to believe that ocular migraines are triggered by spasms within the blood vessels of the retina. These spasms spark alterations in nerve cells within the retina.

Those who suffer from these types of headaches must take care, as they will increase their risk of having long-term vision loss in one of their eyes. Some people try to offset the risk and feel better by practicing preventative care, via tri-cyclic anti-depressants or anti-seizure drugs. However, clinical studies dont pinpoint the effectiveness of these experimental treatments.

Now that you have the inside scoop on ocular migraines, youll be empowered to protect your health. If you have more questions, speak your doctor or optometrist at Laurier Optical Innes Eye Clinic today.

Living With Ocular Migraines

Why do visual migraines occur ?

The cause of ocular and traditional migraines is well understood both are the result of altered blood flow. However, there can be many different triggers resulting in altered blood flow. People who frequently experience ocular migraines or migraine headaches have usually identified what triggers their occurrences, and it varies from person to person. Common triggers include certain foods or drinks, like gluten, processed sugar, meats, or alcohol. Medications may also be a culprit for triggering these events. Others seem to identify environmental causes for their migraines, such as fatigue, restlessness, or extreme stress. An important part of living with ocular migraines and headache migraines is being able to identify the triggers for these events, and keeping them in mind for future avoidance.

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Examining The Relationship Between Migraines And Sleep Habits

While all of these headache types are triggered by certain factors, unhealthy sleep habits, in particular, can elevate the severity of Migraine.

A study in the journal Headache explores the relationship between sleep and Migraine. To study the effects of an attack on sleep, 147 women who were suffering from a Migraine attack were interviewed. Not a single candidate reported feeling rejuvenated after waking up. They all complained about disturbed sleep due to the throbbing pain. But a second study published revealed that the patients felt lowered intensity and more infrequent occurrence of the migraines when they changed their sleep habits.

What Are Migraine Triggers

A number of factors can trigger a migraine, whether its ocular, retinal, or classic migraine. The reasons can vary from person to person. If you have ocular migraines, pay attention to these possible triggers:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Relaxation after a stressful time
  • Loud sounds or bright lights
  • Strong odors

Dr. Kim discusses common triggers for migraine headaches.

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

What are some triggers for migraines?

Retinal migraines are more likely to be triggered by other factors: intense exercise, dehydration, low blood sugar, high blood pressure, hot temperatures, and tobacco use.

Certain foods can trigger both types of visual migraines:

  • Red wine or other alcohol
  • Food and drink with caffeine
  • Hot dogs, sausage, and other processed meats that contain nitrates
  • Chips, fast foods, broths, and other products with the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Food with the naturally occurring compound tyramine, including smoked fish, cured meats, and some soy products

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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.

When To Contact A Medical Professional

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  • You are experiencing “the worst headache of your life.”
  • You have speech, vision, or movement problems or loss of balance, especially if you have not had these symptoms with a migraine before.
  • A headache starts suddenly.

Schedule an appointment or call your provider if:

  • Your headache pattern or pain changes.
  • Treatments that once worked no longer help.
  • You have side effects from your medicine.
  • You are taking birth control pills and have migraine headaches.
  • Your headaches are more severe when lying down.

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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.

Ocular Migraine Vs Retinal Migraine

The terms ocular migraine and retinal migraine are often used to mean the same thing. But to be precise, a retinal migraine is a rare type of ocular migraine.

Its also worth differentiating the term visual migraine, in which the migraine affects an area of the brain that involves vision. This may result in aura affecting sight in both eyes, not just one.

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Treating And Coping With Migraine

Migraine can be debilitating and impact your quality of life. If youre experiencing blind spots or vision disturbances, for example, you will want to wait until they pass before driving.

Ocular migraine will typically go away with time. You should rest and avoid triggers such as bright lights until the vision disturbances are gone.

There are both over-the-counter treatments and prescription medications that you can use to treat recurring migraine flares. Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or Excedrin Migraine may also help reduce the symptoms.

Other medications that may help you manage ocular migraine include:

  • beta-blockers

What Are The Symptoms

Why Do Migraines Happen?

An array of symptoms may crop up when an ocular migraine begins and throughout its duration. Common symptoms of ocular migraines include blind spots within fields of vision, blindness in eyes and a sensation of seeing flashing lights. These types of headaches will usually last for up to three days and they often cause more symptoms on one side of a persons head.

Pain is typically described as moderate to very painful. This pain has a pulsating quality and pain may increase when the person is physically active. Some people may throw up or have sick stomachs during ocular migraines. Its also possible to have increased sensitivity to lights and sounds during migraine episodes. One key signal that its an ocular migraine is that vision loss afflicts one eye only.

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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.

What Are The Preventive Treatments For Migraine

Many patients with isolated visual migraines, without severe headaches, have relatively infrequent episodes that do not require specific preventive treatments. If a patient is aware of the particular triggers that seem to bring on an episode, then those triggers can be avoided.

In patients where the pattern of migraines includes frequent, severe headaches, it is very reasonable to consider additional preventive treatments. The main goal for any of these strategies is to reduce the overall frequency and severity of the headaches. None of the preventive treatments is a magic bullet that is 100% effective. For example, it would be considered successful if a preventive treatment helped reduce the number of severe headaches from 8 per month to 2-4 per month.

There are numerous medications that can be used as a preventive treatment for migraine. One medication that is used commonly, particularly because it has no side effects, is vitamin B2 . Approximately 100mg of riboflavin daily is thought to improve migraine headaches . One common side effect of riboflavin is that the urine turns bright yellow. Other herbal medications used to reduce migraine headaches include petasites and feverfew.

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Can Dehydration Cause Eye Flashes

Dehydration, stress, lack of sleep, caffeine and certain foods are typical triggers for ocular migraines. When someone describes their flash stemming from only one eye and it is a quick flash usually only seen in the dark almost like a flash from a camera then I often attribute this to the vitreous gel.

Can I Have A Visual Migraine Without A Headache

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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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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.

What Causes An Ocular Migraine

Doctors believe that ocular migraines have similar causes as migraine headaches. The World Health Organization says that there is also a genetic link to a migraine. Studies show that over 70 percent of people who experience the disorder have a family history of ocular migraines.

Migraines are usually triggered by activation of specific mechanisms deep within the brain which releases numerous inflammatory substances around the blood vessels and the nerves of the brain. However, medical scientists are still unable to determine the primary cause of these changes. Imaging studies have revealed that changes occur in blood flow to the brain during ocular migraines, but experts are yet to establish the underlying cause of these rapid changes.

Statistics also indicate that this condition mostly affects adults who are in their 30s or 40s but they start experiencing the state in their early ages and may pass it down to their children. Women are three times more likely to be affected than male adults.

Migraines have also been linked to hormone estrogen which controls chemicals in the brain that usually affect the sensation of pain. Women tend to experience frequent hormone fluctuations due to the menstrual cycle, menopause, and pregnancy. Hormone levels also tend to be affected by the use of oral contraceptives and other hormone replacement therapies which tend to increase their risk of being attacked by ocular migraines.

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Causes Of An Ocular Migraine

Although doctors don’t know the exact causes of an ocular migraine, there is some indication that it might be the result of spasms in the blood vessels that flow through the retina . The effect causes changes which spread across nerve cells. This is a rare condition, but because of the danger of permanent vision loss in one eye, it is important for sufferers to talk to their family physician for solutions.

The Future Of Research

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Scientists continue to study the elusive causes of migraines, and ocular migraines in particular. A new study conducted by Antonio Gonzalez, from the University of California San Diego, indicates that migraines are more prevalent in migraine sufferers who had higher levels of gut bacteria responsible for processing nitrates. This could also explain why certain foods, like chocolate, are thought to act as migraine triggers.

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What Type Of Doctor Do You See For Ocular Migraines

If you have ocular migraines, you can see an ophthalmologist oran optometrist.

Optometrists are eye care specialists who offer primary vision care services, including:

  • Vision testing
  • Correction of visual problems
  • Treatment and management of visual issues and eye diseases

On the other hand, ophthalmologists are medical practitioners who specialize in eye and vision care. They differ from optometrists in their degrees of schooling as well as what they can diagnose and cure.

An ophthalmologist is a healthcare professional who has finished college and has at least eight years of further medical studies. He or she is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. Ophthalmologists hold a Doctor of Medicine degree.

Optometrists are healthcare professionals who complete four additional years of school after finishing undergraduate studies. They hold a Doctor of Optometry degree.

Why Do I Get Ocular Migraines

Migraines are caused by cortical spreading depression, a medical term used to describe abnormal electrical activity in the brain that typically starts in the occipital lobe and spreads through the rest of the brain at a slow but steady pace. Ocular migraines may be caused by this same phenomenon that takes place in the retina of the eye.

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What Causes Ocular And Visual Migraines

The exact cause of an ocular migraine can be difficult to pinpoint. But it’s believed they occur for the same things that cause migraine headaches.

Migraine headaches have a genetic basis, and some studies say that up to 70% of people who suffer from the disorder have a family history of migraine.

According to the World Health Organization , migraines are caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.

Studies have shown changes in blood flow to the brain during ocular migraines and migraine auras . But exactly why this happens remains unclear.

Common migraine “triggers” that can cause a person to have a migraine attack include:

  • Certain foods

  • Caffeinated drinks

  • Artificial sweeteners

Stress and lack of sleep also can trigger an ocular migraine or visual migraine.

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