Nearly 40 million people in the U.S. experience symptoms of a potentially disabling neurological disease called a migraine. More intense than a normal headache, it requires extra care. It’s believed that many people don’t get a formal diagnosis, so the exact number may be more than mentioned above. And many even experience something worse – an ocular migraine.
Is An Ocular Migraine The Same As A Retinal Migraine?
Medically speaking, yes. The descriptor ocular migraine can be confusing but generally means a headache paired with visual disturbances. Because of the misunderstanding about this kind of headache, the term retinal migraine is often used interchangeably with ocular migraine.
What is a retinal migraine?
A retinal or ocular migraine is a rare condition that may crop up in someone who’s experienced other signs of migraine. The chief indicator – recurrent episodes of short-term, reduced vision or blindness – may come first or accompany a headache.
A migraine with aura normally affects both eyes; a retinal migraine, only one eye. If you experience loss of vision in one eye, it’s not related to migraine and is generally triggered by a more serious condition requiring medical attention. In other words, talk to a medical professional for prompt treatment.
Is there more than one kind?
The term ocular migraine is sometimes used to describe a migraine with aura. This kind of headache can harm your vision and has symptoms such as visualizing stars or patterns, flashes of light, blind spots, and other inconsequential sight troubles that subside after a short time. The most common symptoms of an ocular migraine include visual disruptions. Still, your other senses can be affected, too, resulting in problems with speech, motor skills, or difficulties with your central nervous. A migraine aura can happen with a headache or without one, and you can expect it to pass quickly.
One of the ways the pain from some of these symptoms can be relieved includes ketamine, which is typically dispensed in low doses at specialty clinics nationwide. Effective relief may require more than one ketamine treatment.
What Triggers Ocular Migraines?
A migraine aura is a result of irregular electrical activity in certain regions of the brain’s cortex. This abnormal activity radiates along the cortex at a glacial rate – about 3mm per minute – and is accountable for the development and movement of the visual anomaly for approximately 20 to 60 minutes that the visual disturbance lasts. It could be caused by the same type of electrical activity in the back of your eye, or it could be triggered by less blood flowing to the retina.
If you’ve had other kinds of migraine, you know the pain can sometimes be caused by harsh lights and electronic screens of a mobile phone, computer monitor, or television or movie screen. Straining your eyes and endlessly staring at a screen is a recipe for ocular migraines, not to mention long-term exposure to fluorescent or other severe lighting, long-distance driving, and other visual activities which are physically stressful. All of these can boost your risk of getting ocular migraines.
Other triggers may include:
- Hormonal changes in women account for 65% of migraines reported by women
- Certain beverages like alcohol, wine, and high-caffeine drinks
- Stress. According to a study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 80% of people who reported migraines also said they had a lot of stress in their lives.
- Sleeping problems
- Physical duress
- Nicotine use
- Weather changes
- Certain medicines
- Food and food additives
Diagnosis & Treatment
Millions of people who experience migraine symptoms never get diagnosed and try to push through the pain, often at risk of getting other health problems because of that strategy. But ignoring a migraine can be dangerous, whether the symptoms last hours or days. If you experience a migraine, seek medical attention. Your healthcare provider will probably recommend a comprehensive eye examination and neurological tests, inquire about your personal and family history of headaches, and ask about the frequency and severity of the pain. In some cases, there is no medical reason for your headaches, and you may be referred to a mental health specialist for more evaluation.
Are There Alternative Treatment Options?
Your healthcare provider may prescribe over-the-counter or prescription medicine to lower the pain of ocular migraines or recommend avoiding known migraine triggers. Another treatment option to ask about is ketamine infusion therapy, ordinarily available through a specialty clinic. Ketamine is a powerful sedative, so ask if it’s the best option for your migraines.