I had a friend who used to complain that he saw spots and blurry images out of now where while walking or driving or working. He thought it was some kind of eye problem but after proper doctor consultation, he was diagnosed with ocular migraine.
I’ve heard stories about migraines, how the disease can make your life a living hell, with all the unbearable agony and pain, but I had never heard of ocular migraine, the one that not only affects your head but also your vision. DAMN!
This made me curious and I went on to research how common ocular migraines is among the youths and other age groups and found that it’s pretty rare. Before I tell you everything about this deadly migraine let’s jump to a quick fact:
Nearly one-third of migraine sufferers have claimed to experience ocular migraine, also called migraine aura either just before or during the headache. This might have created a confusion about whether ocular migraine is just another symptom of regular migraine. Well, keep reading to find out the answer!
So what exactly is Ocular migraine?
Ocular migraine is a condition where your vision changes and you might experience vision loss or blindness in one eye or more for a short period of time(but sometimes it might last up to 30 minutes) Ocular migraine is a rare problem and it has been classified on the basis of two symptoms; Migraine aura and Retinal migraine.
Just similar to my friend’s experience, migraine aura is a visual disturbance where one sees colored lights or a zig-zag patterns, prism effects and dots which eventually scintillates across your visual field. You might even feel you’re tripping, though you haven’t smoked anything! Humor aside, migraine aura is quite common among those who suffer regular migraine affecting approximately 20% migraine sufferers. The aura might last for 20-60 minutes and it can occur just before or during the headache.
What Happens During An Aura?
An aura is basically a form of hallucination where you feel that you’re just imagining things. Wade Cooper, DO, who’s the director of the University of Michigan’s Headache and Neuropathic Pain Clinic explains the mechanism of the aura. He states,
“In the back of the brain, where we process visual information, there’s a wave of energy. It starts in the way back and slowly moves forward toward the front of the brain. As it moves forward, it gives you too much energy at first—those are the spots and sparkles that you see. After that, because you’ve burned all that energy out, now you’ve got low energy—that’s the dark spot that you see afterward.”
Bottom line is that, though aura can be a scary experience, experts have considered it a common and treatable condition.
Completely different from migraine aura, retinal migraine is a serious condition where a person experiences blurry or dimmed vision, even leading to total blindness in one eye that occurs just before or during the excruciating headache. Retinal migraine is more common in women than men and it’s a rare condition. It mostly affects patients with other health conditions like lupus, epilepsy, sickle cell anemia and other autoimmune diseases.
Retinal migraine is a serious condition and requires medical treatment right away. Research has shown that one in every 200 people who suffer migraines have a retinal migraine. That’s because the episode of headache can lead to retina damage, rupture of blood vessels, even causing irreversible vision loss. This made me wonder more about what actually happens to the brain during retinal migraine?
What causes retinal migraine?
It is caused due to reduced blood flow in the eyes when the blood vessels starts to constrict during a migraine episode. Due to lack of sufficient blood flow, one experiences blurry vision and even complete blindness in one eye. Factors like high blood pressure, dehydration, stress, low blood sugar, birth control pills, changes in nerve cells, certain food like smoked meats, aged cheese, alcohol and MSG (monosodium glutamate) and so on can also trigger retinal migraine.
There’s no hardcore treatment of ocular migraine as the symptoms usually go away within 30-60 minutes. Hence the best treatment method would be resting your eyes and avoiding the triggers like bright light until the vision goes back to normal. Nevertheless, there are over the counter medicines like ibuprofen and Excedrin migraine that can be used to check the symptoms. After proper doctor consultation, your doctor can provide you other supplements like beta blockers or calcium channel blocker to relax blood vessels. If you are not taking any kind of medication you can always count on home remedies like lying down in dark room, scalp massage, putting cold damp towel on forehead, and so on.
Bottom line is, if you’re having any kind of headache with blurry vision, you might want to get yourself checked up from a professional doctor. Just remember, it’s never too late to seek for help!