The Symptoms of Ocular Migraines and What to Do About Them

The Symptoms of Ocular Migraines and What to Do About Them

How to stop migraine symptoms when you can't see straight

Unfortunately, visual disturbances and migraine headaches often go hand-in-hand. Two in 10 migraine sufferers experience visual sensations warning them of an impending migraine. These symptoms are called an Ďaura' and include flickering or flashing lights and shapes that appear in your visual field and move or expand to cause partial loss of vision. These symptoms typically fade as the pain of migraine builds.

However, one variant of migraine headaches is called ocular migraines. In ocular migraines, visual disturbances persist for up to an hour, typically involve one eye, and can significantly impair your vision. Visual symptoms of ocular migraines can include:

•  a blind spot. This may start on the edge or in the center of your visual field and gradually expand until most of your vision in that eye is "grayed out."

•  Flashing or shimmering lights throughout your visual field.

•  Jagged lines of light that change shape and drift across your vision, often moving from the edges of your vision toward the center.

The pain of ocular migraines may be distinctive-- a sharp, stabbing sensation in the affected eye. Sometimes, these visual disturbances occur without pain, but they can still significantly disrupt your ability to study, work, or play. When experiencing visual disturbances, it's important to avoid all activities that require good vision, such as driving or operating heavy machinery.

Resting in a quiet, dark room may help symptoms pass more quickly. Natural remedies and nonprescription and prescription medications can also be used to treat and prevent ocular migraines.

One key to limiting the impact of ocular migraines on your life is to identify your individual triggers. These can include certain foods or activities, stress or sleep disruptions, or environmental factors like bright light or certain odors. Identifying and avoiding situations or substances that trigger ocular migraines can go a long way toward helping you enjoy life to the fullest.

One of the best known natural remedies for migraines is feverfew ( tanacetum parthenium ), a member of the sunflower family. It's been used for centuries in Europe to treat headaches and arthritis and experienced a surge in popularity for migraine treatment and prevention in the 1980s.

Feverfew contains a compound, parthenolide, that is believed to prevent the constriction of blood vessels in the brain. Several well-designed studies among humans found that taking feverfew daily in the form of a capsule containing dried leaves can reduce the frequency of migraine headaches among long-term sufferers. Feverfew supplements should contain at least 0.2% parthenolide and some sources suggest a dosage of 100 to 300 mg up to four times a day.

Herbs contain compounds that can interact with other medications and should be taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional who's qualified to practice herbal medicine. It's also important to let your doctor know if you are taking feverfew or other herbs.

Nonprescription anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can help treat ocular migraines. Caffeine in coffee, tea, or soda may also reduce the intensity of pain and visual disturbances. Some over-the-counter medications combine acetaminophen (Tylenol ® ), aspirin, and caffeine and these can be particularly effective at stopping migraine headache pain and other symptoms.

The most popular type of prescription medications used to treat migraines is triptans. These work by preventing constriction of blood vessels and tissue inflammation. Imitrex ® is one of the best-known triptan medications; others include Zomig ® , Maxalt ®, and Relpax ® . When used properly, triptans are very effective and have few side effects.

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