Six Reasons for Ocular and Visual Migraines (And Their Treatments)
Ocular or visual migraines can be an alarming occurrence, especially if you are experiencing one for the first time. An ocular migraine is typically characterized by a partial or complete loss of vision in one eye. You may briefly develop a blind spot, where part of your field of vision in one eye becomes exceptionally blurry. Alternatively, you may temporarily experience blindness in one eye. A visual migraine, contrary to popular belief, is indeed a different condition, characterized by visual disturbances. Also known as a “migraine aura,” a visual migraine might leave a patient seeing flashing lights, shimmers, dots, wavy or zigzag lines, or other sensory disturbances. Both conditions can precede or accompany an actual migraine headache.
The good news is that both ocular migraines and visual migraines typically resolve within an hour or so. The bad news is that determining the precise cause of these visual disturbances can be difficult. Scientists believe that ocular migraines have a genetic origin, but also that reduced blood flow to the eyes or spasms of blood vessels in the eye may cause them. Migraine auras are even more mysterious, with some experts indicating that they have something to do with electrical or chemical impulses in the brain.
However, there are thought to be specific “triggers” that lead to ocular or visual migraines in people who are genetically predisposed to migraine headaches. If you have recently experienced an ocular or visual migraine, here are six common triggers that may have contributed to the event:
- Dehydration. Though often overlooked, dehydration is one of the most common causes of migraine headaches—and thus, of visual and ocular migraines. For some especially migraine-sensitive folks, even mild dehydration can trigger a migraine event. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially during the hotter months, is a must to avoid migraines.
- Stress. Stress is a common activator for migraines in people who experience them frequently. Finding ways to reduce your stress levels can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines. Recommended strategies might include getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, doing yoga, or trying other relaxing activities such as massage or meditation.
- Dietary factors. Some experts say that certain foods—particularly aged cheeses and especially salty dishes—can be migraine triggers. In truth, dietary triggers tend to be more individualized, with different people struggling with different types of food for sometimes inexplicable reasons. Consider keeping a food journal and keeping track of when you develop migraines and what you ate in the 24 hours or so leading up to the migraine event. If you notice any patterns with food that seems to coincide with migraines, consider adjusting your diet accordingly.
- Alcohol or caffeine intake. If you drink a lot of coffee or caffeinated beverages, that intake may make you more likely to regular migraines. Consider reducing caffeine intake to see how your migraine patterns change. Similarly, alcoholic beverages—especially red wine—are commonly listed as migraine triggers.
- Changes in altitude or air pressure. Flying in an aeroplane, traveling to high-altitude areas, or even weather changes can all affect air pressure levels. These fluctuations can sometimes trigger migraine symptoms.
- Hormonal swings. While there is a genetic factor to migraines, studies have shown that women are more likely to experience these events than men. Part of the reason is that women tend to experience more frequent and more extreme fluctuations in hormonal levels, which can trigger migraine headaches. Changes in estrogen levels caused by the regular menstrual cycle, as well as by pregnancy and menopause, often lead to chronic migraines for women. Medications that affect hormones, including birth control, can affect migraine activity as well—though some women tend to doubt whether these medications worsen migraines or render them less common.
Migraine headaches are relatively common, but ocular and visual migraines are a bit more alarming for how significantly they can affect your vision. Even if these vision impacts are short-term for most people, they are upsetting and can dramatically impact your ability to carry out regular tasks, such as driving a car. If you experience ocular or visual migraines frequently or have seen a significant increase in this type of migraine recently, you should consult your eye doctor make sure the issue is not the sign of a larger underlying eye problem. Contact Miami Contact Lens Institute today to schedule an appointment.