The term ophthalmic migraine is interchangeable with ocular or eye migraines. Ocular migraine is a migraine that typically includes some type of visual disturbance. Ocular migraines can occur without the pain that is usually associated with a classic migraine.
An ocular migraine, also known as a migraine with an aura, typically involves experiencing flashing lights, lines, stars, and random patterns in one’s visual field. Some people have reported cases during which they have experienced psychedelic images. An ocular migraine might also result in blind spots in your vision.
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It is thought that one in five people who suffer from migraines experience visuals or aura. Indeed, ocular migraines can be debilitating and interfere with everyday tasks such as driving, reading, and writing.
An ocular migraine is not considered a serious condition but can become disruptive and intrusive. Episodes are random, and the symptoms are temporary, making them unpredictable and confusing.
You shouldn’t confuse an ocular migraine with a retinal migraine. Each is a distinct condition, and a retinal migraine can be a lot more serious for the individual. Retinal migraines are rare and affect one of the eyes. Symptoms include the loss of vision in one eye.
Scientists and the broader medical community are unsure of what causes ocular migraines. Genetics may play a role, as many of those who suffer from ocular migraines have a history of migraine conditions in the family.
What triggers an ocular migraine?
The most common theory is that ocular migraines are caused by the same factors as classic migraines, but the symptoms are generally more visual with less pain.
Migraines are prevalent among the general public, and the exact triggers of migraines are difficult to pin down. Triggers can be very different from person to person. Keeping a notebook that documents your visual migraines may help you to understand your triggers better.
It's believed that a visual aura is related to something called "cortical spreading depression." This phenomenon temporarily affects the electrical pulses in your brain, and the pain typically felt relates to a spasm of blood cells in the brain.
Possible triggers for an ocular migraine may include:
- Skiping a meal
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Certain foods
- Change of weather
- Adjustment to lighting
Triggers for ocular migraines vary from person to person and can be very hard to pin down. Migraines are much more common in women than men. This is thought to have to do with hormonal differences and changes. In fact, it’s common for women to experience migraines during adolescence and menopause.
How long do ocular migraines last?
An ocular migraine typically comes on gradually, and the aura can last anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes, but some can last up to an hour.
The symptoms will often start near the center of the individual's visual field as a bright spot or blind spot. This then spreads to encompass a quarter or even half of the individual's scope of vision.
Some people also experience seeing zigzag lines and stars. Often, these shapes resemble the walls of medieval fortresses, hence the name "fortification spectrum," which is aptly named by neurologists.
How is ophthalmic migraine treated?
The symptoms of visual aura typically last no more than 60 minutes and are painless, so treatment is not usually required. When experiencing an ocular migraine, it's best to close your eyes, rest and wait it out.
Take deep breaths and try to relax until it is over. Practicing your response to ocular migraines is a great way to become comfortable and confident in handling them.
In the case that you experience pain, you can take a pain reliever that is recommended by your doctor.
Medicine that is recommended for this condition are drugs which are used to treat those with epilepsy. They include:
- Valproic acid (Depakote, Depakene)
- Topiramate (Qudexy XR, Topamax, Trokendi XR)
Drugs prescribed for those with depression can also be useful, including:
- Amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
Alternatively, blood pressure drugs, such as beta-blockers and calcium-channel blockers, can be used to alleviate symptoms. Your doctor may also suggest CGRP inhibitors, including eptinezumab (Vyepti), erenumab (Aimovig), fremanezumab (Ajovy), galcanezumab (Emgality).
Using a migraine-relief device can also help treat ocular migraines. The Migraine Stopper is an innovative and patented ear pump operated by the migraine patient. It works by applying gentle and precise positive and negative air pressure to stimulate two nerves in the ear for the purpose of migraine relief. This helps create a steady, reliable, and moderate push and pull effect on the ear canal and eardrum, which stimulates the migraine fighting nerves.
The Migraine Stopper is a neuromodulation device. It is designed to stimulate the trigeminal and vagus nerves to calm down the over-excited brain stem. This means that it activates a specific nerve that helps alleviate debilitating symptoms in a patient. In fact, the trigeminal and vagus nerves are very well researched by medicine for their role in migraine relief and treatment.
Is an ocular migraine a sign of a stroke?
No, having an ocular migraine does not mean you’re having a stroke or that you’re about to experience a stroke. However, you may be at a higher risk of experiencing a stroke in the future.
One study found a link between ocular migraines and a higher risk of stroke over 20 years. Other studies have also found a link between strokes and those who suffer from migraines with auras in particular.
The reason for this increased risk of stroke is still unknown. What we do know is that both migraine and strokes involve changes to blood vessels in the brain. People who experience migraines with auras are more likely to develop blood clots, which may lead to a stroke.
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What causes an ophthalmic (Ocular) migraine?
Experts and researchers are unsure of the exact causes of ocular migraines. There are two main theories:
- Spasms in blood vessels in the retina
- Changes that occur quickly across the nerve cells in the retina (cortical spreading depression)
Other theories on the causes of ocular migraines include
- Central nervous system disorder
- Chemical imbalances
- Hormonal imbalances
Much more research is required to help better understand the causes of ocular migraines. You can stay up to date with the latest research and findings of all migraine conditions on www.migraine.com.
Can anxiety cause ocular migraines?
While there is no specific research on the link between anxiety and ocular migraines, there has been research on classic migraines and anxiety.
The study found that the link is cyclical with anxiety causing migraines and migraines, in turn causing more anxiety.
To prevent and reduce anxiety-triggered migraines, try the following tips:
- Reducing stress
- Practicing mindfulness (meditation, gentle walking, reading, etc.)
- Eating a healthy diet, and eat regularly
- Drinking lots of water daily
- Exercising daily for at least 30 minutes
- Avoiding known triggers
- Avoiding stimulants (coffee, sugar, energy drinks, drugs, etc.)
Can dehydration cause ocular migraines?
Yes, dehydration is often an overlooked cause of many ailments, including headaches and migraines. For many migraine sufferers, even mild dehydration can cause a migraine.
Water is essential for our bodies to function correctly, and we should try to consume at least 2-3 liters every day. Losing only 1-2% of our bodily fluid can cause dehydration.
Can stress cause ocular migraines?
Some people report stress as a trigger for their ocular migraines. However, knowing when we’re experiencing stress is not always clear.
Some people show apparent signs of stress, such as fast heartbeat, quick thoughts, and tightness around the head and chest.
For others, stress is a lot more subtle and may not include typical symptoms. Reducing the amount of stress in your life benefits you in thousands of different ways. It's best to reduce stress even if you don't think it's triggering your migraines.
Should I see a doctor for ocular migraine?
If you experience ocular migraines, it is wise to see your doctor or a migraine specialist for a consultation. They can make sure that it is only a common regular ocular migraine and not something more serious.
What doctor treats ocular migraines?
There are typically three types of doctors you may be recommended to see for your ocular migraines. This includes a headache or migraine specialist, neurologist, ophthalmologist, or otolaryngologist.
How do you prevent ocular migraines?
To help prevent ocular migraines, keep a log of your episodes and the things you did before each episode. This will help identify specific triggers that can then be avoided, such as caffeine, certain foods, lighting types, and so on.
How do you treat ocular migraines naturally?
You can use a device such as The Migraine Stopper, which is designed to apply gentle and precise positive and negative air pressure to stimulate the ear's two nerves for the purpose of natural migraine relief.
To learn more about the Migraine Stopper and how it can help you relieve your discomfort and pain, feel free to browse through our related articles. And if you’re ready to be migraine-free for good, purchase one today and take the discomfort away!