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What Are Ocular Migraines?

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Apr 22, 2014 7:00:00 AM

In recent years, a number of professional athletes who ply their trade in American team sports have come forward with their experiences with migraines. Tennis star Serena Williams and football legend Terrell Owens come to mind, but one of the best-known professional athletes in terms of their migraine conditions is shooting guard Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat. ID-100173636

Wade has been sidelined by migraines a few times during his career. His particular condition is exacerbated by the bright lights of indoor sporting arenas, and in 2011 he wore tinted goggles during games until officials from the National Basketball Association rejected his choice of eyewear. Wade’s condition can be described as a vision-related migraine, which also goes by the names of retinal, ophthalmic or ocular migraine.

Understanding Ocular Migraines

One in every 200 migraine patients may experience ocular or retinal conditions that can significantly impair their vision. The severity of the impairment ranges from sensitivity to light to temporary vision loss, which may occur in one or both eyes. The harshest ocular migraines may cause a temporary blindness episode that may last several minutes, but most of the time less than an hour.

Ocular migraines are often preceded by an aura that affects both eyes. Patients may see tiny spots, bright flashes and strange patterns before actually going through the headache episode. Patients often stop activities such as reading or driving at this time.

Retinal Migraines

Vision loss only occurs in retinal migraines. Patients may experience short periods of excessive blurriness or blindness in just one eye before the actual headache episode takes place. In most cases, they will regain normal vision along with the pain, but any loss of vision longer than ten minutes may be indicative of more serious issues such as ischemic attacks, vascular problems or even strokes. To this end, prolonged retinal migraine visual auras must be ruled out as not being symptoms of other conditions.

What Happens after the Visual Aura?

The headache episodes that follow ocular and retinal migraines will vary in intensity. They may last from a few hours to a couple of days, and they may also include feelings of nausea. The pain and nausea can be managed with over-the-counter medications or prescription medications; however, continued sensitivity to light may require patients to wear dark eyewear just like Dwayne Wade did during the 2011 season. 

Once ocular migraine patients enter their headache stages, they will naturally seek comfort and avoid bright lights. Increased physical activity may flare up the pain, which will more than likely be concentrated to just one side of the body.

These ophthalmic migraines are treated in a similar fashion as other types. Some patients will react positively to beta-blockers while others may find antidepressants to be more effective. When migraines are equally triggered by bright lights and loud sounds, physicians are likely to recommend a preventative plan that focuses on stress management and reduction.

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Topics: Migraine, Causes

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