Migraines can be painful experiences, but did you know they can cause vision issues, too?

What are migraines?

Migraines are intense headaches, usually characterized by severe throbbing pain. They are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last for hours or even days, and the pain can be disabling.

About 25 percent of people who get migraines will experience vision problems. These include blind spots, flashing lights, and wavy lines in their vision. They will start about 20 minutes before the actual migraine. These symptoms are different from what is known as an ocular migraine.

What is an ocular migraine?

Ocular migraines, while rare, can cause people’s vision to weaken – or even vanish completely – in one eye for a period that usually lasts up to 30 minutes. Ocular migraines can accompany ordinary migraines.

Donald Stewart, MD

While doctors aren’t certain what causes ocular migraines, it is believed they are caused by blood vessel spasms in the retina or changes in the retinal nerve cells.

It is important to tell your doctor if you have ocular migraines for several reasons. First, in rare cases, they can lead to permanent vision loss. In other cases, vision loss in one eye might not be related to a migraine at all, but to a more serious condition.

“A visual migraine is almost always a harmless event, but consultation with your ophthalmologist can help decide whether or not this is the correct diagnosis,” CEENTA Ophthalmologist Donald Stewart, MD, said. “Different treatments are available for patients with frequent or severe migraine symptoms."

How do I treat a migraine?

Pain-relieving and preventative medications are available. You and your doctor will discuss the right course of treatment for you. Also, preventative steps can be taken to avoid migraines. These include quitting smoking, getting more exercise, and reducing stress.

If you have migraines and are concerned about your vision, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a CEENTA eye doctor.

Dr. Stewart practices in our SouthPark and Matthews offices. To request an appointment with him or any of CEENTA’s eye doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.

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