Migraine And The Eyes
A migraine is one of the most common causes of a headache behind the eyes, and there are two types of migraine that can cause temporary problems with vision. These two types of migraines are:
Visual migraine A visual migraine, or migraine aura, is a migraine that causes visual symptoms in both eyes such as: a blind spot in the center of your vision, zigzag lines or squiggles that may shimmer in different colors, dots, stars or a light that looks like a camera flash. These visual migraine symptoms usually last 10 to 30 minutes and may or may not be followed by a headache.
Ocular migraine An ocular migraine, or retinal migraine, involves a blind spot in the center of your field of vision, usually in one eye. The blind spot grows in size, and the episode may last about an hour. An ocular migraine is caused by blood flow issues or blood vessel spasms in the retina, a membrane that covers the inside of the back of the eyeball.
Visual migraines are much more common than ocular migraines. As many as one in three people with migraine may have visual migraine symptoms.
Eye Pain And Migraines
Eye pain is a common symptom of migraine headaches. More than 3,000 MyMigraineTeam members have reported eye pain as a symptom. Eye pain can take different forms, but whatever form it takes, it can be one of the most excruciating parts of experiencing migraine headache. When migraine pains get to the eyes, they are some of the worst! one member said. Avoiding migraine triggers and finding ways to soothe eye pain when migraine does occur can significantly improve your quality of life.
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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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.
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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What Are Ocular Migraines
Ocular migraines are painless, temporary visual disturbances that can affect one or both eyes. Though they can be quite alarming, ocular migraines are typically harmless and resolve on their own within approximately 30 minutes.
A number of different visual symptoms may occur with ocular migraines. These may include the appearance shimmering, flashing, or flickering lights , the development of a small, enlarging blind spot in your central vision, and wavy or zig-zag lines surrounding the blind spot, sometimes appearing as a heat wave. The blind spot often enlarges and may move across your field of vision. A person might even observe what appears to be the sensation of looking through a cracked window. The entire experience of an ocular migraine may last only a few minutes and will usually resolve without medication within 30 minutes. In some cases, it might last longer. If you experience vision loss lasting more than 30 minutes, be sure to see an eye specialist.
Some migraine sufferers will experience symptoms in the days weeks before the attack that warn them of an impending migraine or ocular migraine. These might include changes in mood, cravings for certain foods, or a feeling of tiredness.
Migraine auras usually are visual in nature, but they can include disturbances of hearing, speech or smell progressive numbness or tingling in the face or arms or legs or generalized weakness.
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.
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What Do Visual Disturbances Look Like
- Black spots, threads, wiggly lines that float across your vision. We call these floaters. This visual disturbance can occur with or without flashes of light.
- Patches of shimmering light or flashing lights.
- Psychedelic colours, distorted colours and shapes, or kaleidoscope vision.
- Zig-zag patterns or dark spots in your vision.
These are all associated with visual aura of migraine.
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.
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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
How Are Migraines Diagnosed
There is no test that will tell your doctor that your symptoms are being caused by migraines. Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, take a family history and do a physical exam.
Your doctor may ask you:
How often you get headaches or have other symptoms.
What level of severity of head pain you experience.
How long your headaches usually last.
How the headaches affect your daily life .
If you have other symptoms .
If you have a family history of headaches/migraines.
Your doctor may make a diagnosis based on your answers, exam, symptoms and family history. They may also ask you to keep a headache diary to help with diagnosis and identifying patterns or triggers.
Most people who go to a doctor for headaches do not have an MRI or CT scan. But in some cases, your doctor may order imaging to check for less common headache causes such as aneurysm, blood clots or a brain tumor.
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Do I Have Ocular Migraines
Ocular migraines are challenging to diagnose. Many sufferers are often diagnosed with other conditions such as anxiety due to the nature of the symptoms. An important part of diagnosis is ruling out other conditions with similar symptoms.
Your doctor will conduct a thorough examination of your eyes and symptoms to rule out other possible conditions, such as:
- Amaurosis fugax: This condition causes temporary blindness when a blockage in the artery to the eye decreases blood flow
- Spasms in the artery that supplies blood to the retina
- Giant cell arteritis: This can cause inflammation in blood vessels leading to vision problems and blindness
- Autoimmune disease that cause other blood vessel problems
- Damage from drug abuse
Pearls And Other Issues
- A retinal migraine a rare phenomenon that usually affects monocular vision transiently.
- Duration of symptoms on average is 5 to 20 minutes.
- The prognosis for an ocular migraine is good.
- The frequency and intensity of the headache typically decrease.
- During prolonged periods of retinal, choroidal, or optic nerve hypoxia, permanent visual loss may occur.
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Deterrence And Patient Education
It is critical to educate the patients about the red flags of vision loss. A visual loss that patients describe as darkness requires immediate medical attention and an emergency room visit. Patients must understand that this could be a sign of a stroke or an irreversible eye condition. Visual changes that are more consistent with migraine phenomenon are usually positive such as flashing light. Patients must also be taught that those could come without a headache or any pain. Preventive therapy is important to reduce the frequency of attacks and severity and must be taken on a daily basis.
What Are Migraine Treatments
Most ocular and retinal migraines dont require treatment. They will go away on their own. It helps to rest and avoid triggers such as loud noises or bright lights.
If ocular or retinal migraines occur frequently, your eye doctor may suggest medications, including those used to treat other forms of migraines. Beta blockers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants sometimes are helpful, although more research is needed to determine the most effective treatments.
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Migraine Behind Eye: Symptoms Causes And Treatments
There are many reasons for a headache or migraine behind the eye. Usually, this feels like it is coming from inside the head, sinuses, or the back of the actual eye. In fact, pain behind your eyes can also cause dental issues. Seeing a doctor is essential to determine the underlying cause and provide proper treatment. Keep reading to know more about the causes of pain behind the eyes, including the treatment and common eye issues related to this symptom.
Migraine Aura With Visual Disturbance
Migraine is a neurological condition that often causes intense headaches. Migraine tends to run in families.
A migraine aura is experienced by about 25 percent of people with migraine, either before or at the same time as a migraine episode.
Usually, people who have migraine with aura dont experience an aura with all of their migraine episodes, just with some of them.
An aura is a temporary visual, auditory, motor, or other sensory change. Visual disturbances can include:
- seeing a blind spot
Some people with a previous history of migraine report worsening migraine episodes during COVID-19. Some people without a history of migraine report experiencing migraine-like headaches.
A found that among 47 people with COVID-19 who reported having headaches, 24 people reported migraine-like headaches, while 40 percent had symptoms of a tension headache.
Before they developed COVID-19, only 12 of the study participants had previously experienced migraine episodes.
According to a , the most commonly reported neurological symptoms of COVID-19 are headache and loss of smell.
Severe neurological complications such as stroke or seizure have also been reported, although these arent common with COVID -19.
People who develop COVID-19 sometimes develop symptoms affecting their eyes. A found that more than 11 percent of study participants with COVID-19 had eye symptoms.
The most common eye symptoms were:
- dry eyes or foreign body sensation
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Triggers For Eye Pain
Some of the common triggers for migraines and the accompanying eye pain are stress, flashing lights, poor sleep, loud noises, and changes in weather. One MyMigraineTeam member said, The only trigger I can identify so far is rain. Every darn time!
Food sensitivities can also cause migraines. The most common food triggers include aged cheese, nuts and nut butters, tomatoes, chocolate, caffeine, and onions and garlic. Certain food additives, such as artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate , and nitrates also can trigger migraines.
MyMigraineTeam members report a variety of food sensitivities that can bring on migraines and eye pain. Many members find that their food triggers change with age, and that they have to go through a process of trial and error to eliminate foods that cause migraines. According to one member, Peanut butter was never a trigger. Then suddenly I got a migraine every time I ate it, so I have avoided it for about 10 years. I love it, so I have slowly been adding it back in and it is not triggering.
Alcohol sensitivity can also cause migraines. Between the rain and a thimbleful of champagne and a few sips of chardonnay, I was sick, a MyMigraineTeam member said.
Visual Disturbance Of Migraine Is Short
The visual disturbances of migraine generally last less than an hour, most commonly 10-30 minutes. Sometimes they only last seconds. They may or may not be associated with a headache, and some individuals only experience the visual symptoms without headaches. The visual symptoms usually start before the headache but may occur during the headache.
To complicate the issue, migraine may change throughout life. The character of the headache may change, and the visual symptoms may change. The most common pattern is for the headaches to become less severe or even go away, with episodes of visual aura persisting. Some people only experience migraine-related visual symptoms, often without headache, starting at age 50 or later.
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Diagnosing And Treating Ocular Migraines
When you visit your doctor, they will ask about your symptoms, examine your eyes, and order additional tests to rule out other serious conditions such as:
- Amaurosis fugax
- Giant cell arteritis
- Spasms in the blood vessels that carry blood to the eye
- Autoimmune diseases
- Stroke or transient ischemic attack
- Drug abuse
Migraine And Neck Pain
While neck pain was previously thought to be a migraine trigger, recent studies show it is a symptom of migraine, not a cause. People with migraine often experience neck pain, including a stiff or tight neck or pain that spreads to or from the neck. Neck pain may be a common migraine symptom, including during the prodrome phase, but its often overlooked.
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What Causes Eye Pain During Migraines
Changes in hormone levels, such as serotonin and estrogen, may trigger migraine pain by causing contractions in blood vessels. Changes in estrogen levels may also make facial nerves like the nerves around the eye more sensitive. Women experience fluctuating estrogen levels, and they are more likely than men to experience migraines.
People who experience chronic migraines may also have differences in their trigeminal system, which controls many facial movements, including eye movement. These differences cause nerve overactivity, with nerve becoming hypersensitive and creating migraine eye pain. The eyes may be especially sensitive to nerve differences because they are more exposed than other body parts. The cornea contains trigeminal nerve endings, but it is only five cells apart from the surface of the body. Even small amounts of pressure or tiny irritants can cause tremendous eye pain during a migraine attack.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Migraine
Migraines affect people in different ways but the most commonly described symptoms are
- Throbbing pain or pulsing sensation on one side of the head
- Severe pain typically lasting 4 72 hours
- Aura occuring for 10 30 minutes, up to one hour before the migraine pain starts
- Extreme sensitivity to light, noise and sometimes to smell and/or touch
- Vomiting and/or nausea
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Are Ocular Migraines Dangerous
People who experience Retinal Migraines may be at increased risk for permanent vision loss as a result of decreased blood flow to the eye. It is important to see an eye doctor annually to look for changes and monitor the health of your eyes. Retinal Migraines may also cause temporary loss of vision while you are driving or doing other activities. If you experience these symptoms while driving or during activity, it is important to stop and rest in a safe place until symptoms subside.
Migraine Aura is not generally considered a serious condition, however people who experience Ocular Migraines may be at increased risk for stroke. This risk is higher in women, especially those who use hormonal birth control, and people who smoke.