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Ocular Migraines

Migraines are often misunderstood as nothing more than severe headaches. Migraine headaches are actually very different from other headaches. Ocular migraines are events that affect vision when the body is experiencing migraine processes, and may or may not be accompanied by pain.

Ocular Migraine Symptoms

The symptoms of ocular migraines can be frightening, but they do not permanently threaten vision. Visual disturbances occur most often in peripheral vision and include:

  • Zigzagging lines or patterns
  • Shimmering or colored lights
  • Flashing lights
  • Complex colors and shapes
  • Floaters
  • Loss of vision in one spot or off to one side
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Blurred central vision

Visual disturbances typically last no more than half an hour. Some people also experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Numbness

How Migraines Work

Migraines are still something of a medical mystery. They involve spasms of the blood vessels in the head. When these spasms affect the ocular blood supply or blood supply to the vision center of the brain, they affect vision. Doctors do not know why some people get them and others do not, but we do know what typically triggers them. Common migraine triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Premenstrual hormonal changes
  • Birth control pills
  • Red wine
  • Foods preserved with nitrates, such a hot dogs
  • Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Sunlight
  • Hunger
  • Too much sleep
  • Too little sleep
  • Changes in barometric pressure

Treatment

Most migraine sufferers are still searching for a truly effective treatment. The need for treatment depends entirely on how ocular migraines affect you. If attacks are compromising your safety, due to sudden temporary vision loss, then preventative measures should be taken. Painkillers and extracranial vasoconstrictors are often used to treat migraines. Biofeedback has been helpful for many migraine sufferers. Avoiding migraine triggers is often the best course of action.

Ocular migraines are not a problem with the eye itself, so your ophthalmologist will be limited in his or her ability to help. If you experience symptoms of ocular migraines you should consult with your ophthalmologist to rule out any other vision problems, and if it is determined that the problem is migraines, he or she should be able to refer you to the appropriate specialist.

You should not ignore undiagnosed ocular migraines. In addition to conditions of the eye, the symptoms of ocular migraines can also be symptoms of serious health problems including internal carotid artery aneurysms and diabetes. While migraines are typically not harmful in themselves, in a few rare cases they can cause brain injury by reducing the blood flow to the brain.

If you or a loved experiences optical migraine symptoms, talk to your ophthalmologist today.

 
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