You may have heard of the term migraine (since it’s pretty common) but ocular migraines (migraines that affect the eye/s) are a serious deal. Even if the migraines are present alone and are not a symptom of an underlying condition, they can still be debilitating and have a serious impact on your life. Here’s a guide on ocular migraines, how to deal with them and its causes.
Everything you Need to Know About Ocular Migraine
What is it?
Ocular migraines are a type of migraine that involves a visual disturbance. When experiencing an ocular migraine, or a migraine with an aura, an individual will see flashing or shimmering lights, lines, stars, or even blind spots. These visual interferences can even cause partial or total temporary blindness in the affected eye.
You may experience vision loss or blindness in the affected eye for a short time, usually for less than an hour. Patients usually experience it along with or after a regular migraine.
What are its symptoms?
Warning signs that it’s coming on are:
- These are vision problems that affect just one eye, these include migraine with an aura or a change in visual perception. It might last for only a few minutes or up to 30 minutes.
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or face
- Experiencing blind spots, shimmering spots, flashing lights, or zig-zag lines
- Heightened sensitivity to light or sound
Does it have triggers like normal migraines do?
Yes, although triggers vary from person to person, common ones experienced may include:
- Bright lights
- Strong smells
- Stress and anxiety
- alcoholic beverages (especially red wine)
- foods containing nitrates (includes processed meats like sausages)
- artificial sweeteners
It is important to distinguish and determine the triggers of your migraines in order for your doctor to make an accurate prognosis.
How is it caused?
Experts aren’t completely sure about the specific causes, but they consider the following to cause these migraines:
- Spasms in blood vessels in the retina
- Spreading changes in the nerve cells in the retina
- Genes have been assumed to cause this
Although rare, people who have ocular migraine may have a higher risk of permanent vision loss in one eye. In addition to this, it is much like other types of migraines: harsh lights and electronic screens can also 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 straining visual activities increases your risk for attacks.
Migraine aura is also considered to be a result of abnormal electrical activity involving certain regions of the cortex (outer surface) of the brain.
How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor will question you about your symptoms and do an examine of your eyes. They will also ask about the frequency of migraines, the general duration between each episode and the intensity.
How do I deal with this at home?
Ocular migraine symptoms usually disappear on their own within half an hour, so most people don’t need specific treatments for them. Therapy suggests that it’s best to stop straining your eyes and rest your eyes until your vision goes back to normal. If you have a headache, take a pain reliever recommended by your doctor.
Preventative therapies and coping medication include taking calcium channel blockers, antiepileptic or tricyclic medications. Quitting smoking is recommended and reducing the intake of oral contraceptive pills may be suggested under certain circumstances.
Some drugs-free options can include resting your eyes, removing yourself from bright sunlight or other harsh lighting, and taking a break from looking at a screen. As with all types of migraine, try to avoid any triggers.
While the symptoms of ocular migraines can be disorienting and distressing, they are often short-lived and almost always reversible. You should consult your doctor if they increase in frequency. Your doctor can make sure there are no serious underlying conditions such as cancer, and can also prescribe medications that can reduce the frequency or intensity of the symptoms.
If you have ocular migraine, even if they go away on their own, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and to come up with coping strategies.