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Ocular Migraines

Migraine Awareness Month:

An ocular migraine is any migraine headache that involves a visual disturbance such as flashes of light, seeing stars or zigzags or the appearance of blind spots in the visual field. Ocular migraines can interfere with your ability to go about your daily tasks such as driving, reading or writing, however, the visual symptoms don’t last long and do go away completely once the migraine has passed. 

What is an Ocular Migraine?

The term ocular migraine may refer to a couple of different conditions. Firstly, migraines with auras often have eye-related symptoms that precede the actual headache. An aura is a physical symptom that is experienced usually within 5 minutes to an hour before a migraine comes on, and can include:

  • Blind spots (scotomas) or partial vision loss
  • Flashes of light, spots or zigzag patterns
  • Visual, auditory (hearing) or olfactory (smell) hallucinations or disruptions
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Mental fog, trouble finding words and speaking

These types of ocular migraines commonly appear by obstructing a small area of vision which spreads gradually over 5 minutes. 

A second type of ocular migraine is when you actually experience temporary vision loss or disruptions (flashes, blind spots, zigzag lines etc.) during or immediately following the migraine headache. Ocular migraines can also sometimes appear without any head pain at all. They may also be called eye, ophthalmic, or retinal migraines. 

What Causes Ocular Migraines?

Similar to classic migraines, the exact cause of an ocular migraine is unknown. Genetic predisposition seems to be a factor to some extent, and having a family history of migraines does put you at greater risk. 

While they don’t know the cause, experts have seen that spasms in the blood vessels and nerve cells in the retinal lining at the back of the eye are associated with ocular migraine symptoms. 

For some, there are certain environmental triggers, or a combination of factors, that cause migraines. These differ on an individual basis but can include:

  • Stress
  • Bright lights or loud sounds
  • Strong smells
  • A sudden or drastic change in weather conditions
  • Eating, or exposure to, certain food substances such as, alcohol, caffeine, nitrates, MSG (monosodium glutamate), artificial sweeteners and tyramine. 

Since triggers are different for everyone it’s advised to try to identify yours by keeping a journal to track your environment, diet and lifestyle habits, when you experience a headache. 

Treatment for Ocular Migraines

Treatment for ocular migraines is usually not necessary as the symptoms typically resolve themselves within 30 minutes. It is advised to rest and avoid doing things that require vision and concentration until the headache goes away and the vision symptoms cease. If you are experiencing an ocular headache:

  • Lie down in a quiet, dark room when possible
  • Massage or apply pressure to the temples and scalp
  • Apply a damp towel to the forehead

If you experience auras, taking a migraine medication when the aura occurs, can often reduce the intensity of the headache that follows. In other words, you can use the aura as a warning sign that a headache is coming on and treat it preventatively. Your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever for associated head pain and, if migraines are chronic, a preventative medication may be given. 

It’s important to note that if you are experiencing any unusual visual symptoms or an increase in frequency or duration of symptoms, you should see an eye doctor right away to rule out any serious, vision threatening conditions. Symptoms such as floaters or flashing lights can also be a sign of a retinal tear or hole. 

If you get migraines, among the best ways to prevent them are to keep your mind and body healthy by eating nutritious foods, getting enough rest and managing stress effectively. 

We hope this finds you all healthy and safe.  We are pleased to announce our re-opening for routine eyecare on Monday May 11, 2020.

As a valued member of our Lake Erie Family Eyecare patient community, we appreciate the trust you place in us and want to inform you about how we are addressing the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

Please know that our office is following all recommended guidance from public health authorities, including best practices for hygiene, infection control and medical professional team health. We feel confident in our ability to continue seeing patients and providing primary care according to the tradition of quality care that you have come to expect and deserve.

Our highest priority is to keep all of our patients and staff as safe as possible.

The coronavirus spreads very easily. So, please call us before you come in for an appointment if you have any of these symptoms or risk factors:

 

As a staff we will be wearing masks and request that you do as well for everyone’s safety and to limit the possibility of exposure.  If you do not have a mask, we may be able to provide you with one while our supply lasts.

Please try to complete all necessary paperwork prior to your scheduled apt (can be found on our website..)

We are requesting that only scheduled patients enter the office ( including glasses selection and dispensing/adjustments to help practice social distancing and to keep foot traffic limited as much as possible (if the patient is a minor or requires the assistance of a caregiver, please limit this to one additional person if possible)

For contact lens orders, please call ahead for curbside pickup

We are excited to resume patient care and will continue to closely monitor events in our local community in order to continuously update our policies and protocols as a result of new information.

Thank you for your understanding and please know that we appreciate your trust. We hope you and your family are well and continue to stay healthy & safe during this time.

With kind regards,

Dr. Jennifer Felbinger and the Lake Erie Family Eyecare team.