Ocular or optic migraine is a term used to describe common migraine auras and more serious conditions, such as symptoms of stroke or a retinal tear. During an optical or ocular migraines, or conventional migraine aura, you see flashes, zigzag patterns of black and white light, bind spots or stars for five to twenty minutes. You may not be able to drive for a few minutes or miss part of a presentation in class, but the symptoms are nothing to worry about.
This fairly insignificant optic or ocular migraine affects both eyes. Ocular migraines are described as happening to those who have had at least one full conventional migraine headache. A conventional migraine is the experience of a visual aura followed by a severe one-sided headache and sensitivity to light; it may subside in nausea and vomiting. The ocular or optic migraine is of short duration and may also produce a variety of sensations, such as numbness, tingling in the face or an extremity, confusion or difficulty with speech or language. The severe migraine headache pain usually occurs within an hour of the optical aura.
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Migraine headaches are three times more likely to occur in women than in men. A family history of migraine is a predictor of optical or ocular migraines. Migraine headaches might be worsened, or be caused by, hormonal changes due to pregnancy, menstruation or menopause. Optic or ocular migraine auras have been tied to smoking, taking birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy or high blood pressure. Women who have migraines are at a slightly higher risk for stroke. The connection between stroke and migraine might be due to changes in blood vessels or blood flow in the brain.
An ocular or optical migraine may be a response to stress. Combinations of foods that you eat affect nerve pathways and chemicals in your brain and make you more likely to have an optic or ocular migraine. Alcohol, allergies, lack of sleep, exercise and skipping meals may increase the incidence of migraine headaches. Foods processed with preservatives, chocolate, dairy products, monosodium glutamate, bacon, hot dogs, salami, cured meats and caffeinated beverages can increase your chances of getting ocular or optic migraine headaches.
Serious Ocular Migraine
The distinction between ocular or optic migraine and a more serious condition is that the transient vision loss in ocular or optic migraine is in both eyes as opposed to only in one eye, as happens in the more serious conditions. Opthalmologic examination during a migraine attack is needed to see if the condition is a more serious stroke or a retinal tear. Loss of peripheral vision with remaining central vision, known as tunnel vision, results from glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary disorder, and may result from a stroke.
Retinal tears due to injury or normal ageing produce optic or ocular migraines. Debris thrust into the eye or a blow to the head is sufficient injury to detach a retina.
The gellike vitreous humour that fills the eyeball and is normally seated along the optic nerve is in contact with the retina. In the normal ageing process, the gel becomes fluid and liquid. Generally after age 60, the liquid vitreous seeps away from the optic nerve and pulls on the retina, producing flashing lights in the corner of the field of vision. This ageing process occasionally produces a retinal tear.
Retinal tears must be treated with laser surgery to prevent a detached retina.
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