Ocular Migraine also goes by a variety of names – visual, retinal, ophthalmic and eye migraine – and is a “vision disturbance” where a small but increasing blind spot occurs at the centre of view together with flashing lights. Although a bit alarming, the disorder is usually painless and goes away by itself after a few minutes or so.
An ocular migraine differs then from the usual migraine headache from which many people (mostly women) suffer, in that it does not have the throbbing pain and associated nausea, nor does it last for up to three days or even longer.
Conventional migraine sufferers do also suffer from ocular migraines in which case it’s given the descriptive name “aura”.
It’s pretty well certain that hereditary factors play a part in the occurrence of both ocular and conventional migraines, and surveys of twins has gone a long way in confirming the role of genetics.
After one or two initial disturbances a sufferer gets used to what is going to happen, and might even be waiting for it if particular circumstances usually precede it. These circumstances could be periods of stress or tiredness, even a desire for foods (chocolate springs to mind).
Symptoms experienced vary according to the person but mainly involve a blind spot that gradually gets larger, with jagged lines and flashes around it.
Occasionally other symptoms of feeling weak (not surprisingly), facial tingling and minor speech difficulty are experienced during a disturbance.
Since an ocular migraine is harmless and sorts itself out in around half an hour, there seems to be no reason to physically treat a particular episode, other than taking time out for it to pass.
If one occurs when working at a computer, take a break and relax somewhere; and if driving then pull over and again relax. If the car is too hot, get out and sit if possible in some shade, and don’t resume driving until well past the recovery phase.
An ophthalmologist, after a full eye test, might prescribe aspirin or a blood pressure reducing drug. This will increase the blood flow to the ocular cortex in the brain.
The usual suspects that trigger migraine episodes – coffee, alcohol and the sweeteners used in cola type drinks – don’t seem to have the effects with respect to ocular migraine.
Some foods, or more importantly what’s in them, may be the source of triggers, so a good idea is to keep an accurate record in a diary of everything swallowed – solids, liquids, even taste tested – along with times and dates of the migraines.
It may well be that there is a delay in the body reacting to certain foods so the diary really helps in doing the detective work to catch the culprits – and if trying to lose a bit of weight is going to make you own up to why you might be failing!
Finally, although painless and of short duration, the frequency and severity of ocular migraine disturbances might warrant a visit to an optometrist or ophthalmologist, just in case there is something that needs checking out – better to be safe that sorry! Very rarely after a severe ocular migraine one can be left with a scotoma. It is important to diagnose this as it will definitely need treatment.