For those who suffer from migraines, you know the debilitating pain they can cause. They ruin your entire day and, unfortunately, there isn't much known about why they occur in the first place. A migraine is classified as a headache of varied intensity, which is often accompanied by visual symptoms, nausea, and vomiting. Migraine headaches can last for hours, and may last for up to a few days in some people.
So, how about an ocular migraine? An ocular migraine (also known as an eye migraine, ophthalmic migraine, optical migraine, or retinal migraine) generally exhibits a central blind spot in the vision of one eye which expands over time. This can make it impossible to work or drive while the episode is occuring. It may or may not also be accompanied by a headache, but the sufferer will usually not notice any nausea. Ocular migraines typically last between 30 minutes and one hour.
What Is an Ocular Migraine Aura?
Confusingly, there is also something known as a visual migraine (also known as a migraine aura), which is just compromised of the visual symptoms often experienced during a migraine headache. These may include blind spots, flickering lights, or wavy, zigzag patterns. A visual migraine is much more common but much less concerning than an optical migraine.
What Causes Migraines? | Migraine Triggers
Ocular migraines are thought to have the same causes that regular migraine headaches do. All migraines have a genetic component, and this is true for as high as 70% of migraine sufferers. However, other factors can contribute. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that when a migraine occurs, inflammatory substances are released deep in the brain which affect blood flow and nerve firing in the area. However, it is largely unknown what causes this intense change in electrical activity and blood flow as well as what causes the abrupt end of the migraine.
It is thought that a few migraine triggers may include specific foods (red wine, aged cheese, smoked meats, dark chocolate) and food chemicals such as MSG and artificial sweeteners. Other triggers may include hormone fluctuations, intense light, light from electronic screens, loud noise, strong odors, stress, and lack of sleep. Unfortunately, some people will experience migraines easily, without much trigger, due to the strong genetic component.
Most importantly, how does one get rid of a migraine once it occurs? If you're working, driving, or doing any other visual task during an ocular migraine, make sure to stop what you're doing and try to relax. Ocular migraines will usually disappear within an hour, and it is worth it to take a little time out. Regular migraine headaches can take hours to disappear, however, so your best treatment is to take a long nap.
Of course, you can take medication for your migraine, both regular and ocular. If you're someone who experiences regular migraines (at least twice per month) or you have migraines which last longer than 24 hours, you may be a great candidate for preventative migraine medication. These include calcium channel blockers, and antiepileptic or tricyclic medications. You can also take medication for symptom relief such as pain-relieving NSAIDs or anti-nausea medication.
Due to the large amount of migraine triggers, it is also smart to keep a migraine journal. Each time you have a migraine, write down your activities that day and especially what you ate. This can help you pinpoint what may be causing your migraines so that you can avoid those triggers in the future. Your best treatment is prevention, and this means avoiding the triggers that you're susceptible to. If you are someone who suffers from regular migraines, here are a few tips to incorporate into your daily life:
Eat healthy meals daily. Limit processed, rich foods and sugars to once per week or less.
Completely avoid migraine triggers which you believe are a problem for you.
Get 7-8 hours of restful sleep per night.
Try stress-reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation, and massage.
If you are a regular migraine sufferer, the tips above may greatly reduce the amount of migraines you experience. Do what you can to improve your headaches and change your life!