Understanding Ocular Migraines

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Understanding Ocular Migraines - First Eye Care North Arlington

Ocular Migraines Greatly Reduce People’s Quality of Life

An ocular migraine is an extremely rare condition. According to the American Migraine Foundation, approximately 25-30% of migraine sufferers experience ocular migraines. The term ocular migraine can be confusing for many as it has been used to refer to many migraine conditions. Various issues involving one’s vision characterize all of these migraine subtypes.

Migraine aura and retinal migraine are the two most frequent conditions that ocular migraine is given to. Both have key differences in their symptoms and how they occur. For example, migraine aura typically affects only one eye while retinal migraine affects both.

Types of Ocular Migraines 

As mentioned previously, a temporary loss of vision or, in severe cases, temporary blindness typically characterize ocular migraines. The term has been used to describe both migraine auras and retinal migraines. Both of these conditions are temporary and do not last longer than an hour.

Migraine Aura 

Migraine aura, or visual migraine, typically involve vision impairments, such as flashes of light, blind spots, shimmering spots or stars, or zigzag patterns around the blind spot. They can occur with a migraine headache but are not always accompanied by one. They usually move across your field of vision and last no longer than an hour.

Migraine aura affects both eyes. A headache may occur after the symptoms of the visual migraine dissipate, but sometimes, no headache happens. The symptoms of this migraine will hinder your ability to accomplish everyday activities like driving and reading.

Retinal Migraine 

Retinal migraine is typically what real ocular migraines refer to. A retinal migraine is far rarer than a migraine aura. It is accompanied by bouts of diminished or blurred vision or temporary blindness. However, these are also relatively short-lasting, disappearing in under an hour.

A key difference between these two ocular migraines is that retinal migraines only affect one eye, not both. Other symptoms include decreased vision and twinkling lights. It can be difficult to differentiate between these two migraines, so it’s important for you to visit your doctor.

Causes of Ocular Migraines 

It is believed that ocular migraines share the same causes as migraine headaches. Studies have shown that migraine headaches are hereditary with the majority of sufferers having a family history of migraines.

Ocular migraines typically have abnormal brain activity in the brain’s cortex. This activity involves the release of inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the brain. It slowly spreads across the head and brain at a gradual rate, causing visual disturbances. Imaging studies have shown in both migraine auras and retinal migraines a change in blood flow to the brain. For retinal migraines, this occurs in the blood vessels in the retina. However, why this activity occurs is still unknown.

Several other triggers can cause these migraines, including:

  • Certain foods possessing monosodium glutamate or MSG
  • Harsh lights
  • Computer, tablet, or smartphone screens
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfumes or other harsh smells
  • Lack of sleep

Treatment and Prevention

As mentioned previously, the symptoms of ocular migraines are not long-lasting, disappearing in under an hour. Due to this, there is typically not a need for treatment. However, when you are experiencing one, it is best to give your eyes a rest until your vision is recovered.

Prevention is a far better tactic to limit the number and severity of migraine auras and retinal migraines. Medications such as NSAIDs and anti-nausea or blood pressure medications can all help prevent migraines. Other helpful prevention practices include:

  • Regularly eating healthy meals.
  • Avoiding migraine triggers.
  • Getting plenty of sleep.
  • Partaking in preventative therapies.

Many people are unaware of just how debilitating ocular migraines can be, whether migraine aura or retinal migraine. They greatly affect your quality of life by preventing you from doing everyday activities. If you are noticing any visual disturbances and worry you may be experiencing some form of ocular migraine, schedule an appointment at First Eye Care North Arlington.

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