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Searing eye and head pain when exposed to light. Throbbing on one side of the head. Nausea and vomiting. These are all signs of migraines. Those who have suffered from migraines for many years typically know what triggers their pain and often already have a treatment plan in place. However, if you have started to experience migraines with no prior history of them, or your migraines have changed in nature, now might be a good time to visit your eye doctor, particularly if your migraines come with associated vision changes.

WHAT IS A MIGRAINE?

Many people assume that any severe headache is a migraine. While such severe pain is greatly uncomfortable, there are many types of headaches, and migraines are only one particular type. While some headaches are related to seasonal allergens or stress, a migraine is actually a neurological disorder and often inherited, unlike other types of headaches.

Migraine sufferers often have associated symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light (photophobia) or noise (phonophobia). Although a migraine may cause pain throughout the entire head, it is more common for pain to be on one side, and usually the pain is always with each subsequent migraine. Some people have triggers such as certain smells, foods, or stresses that cause the migraines, while others do not. Additionally, some people experience auras before migraines, preceding warning symptoms such as severe nausea or visual disturbances before the pain begins. Seventy percent of the 25 million American migraine sufferers happen to be women.

WHAT EYE AND VISION SYMPTOMS ARE RELATED TO MIGRAINES?

Although any migraine may cause vision-related changes — including flashes of light in the visual field, short-term vision loss, or sensitivity to light — ocular (sometimes called retinal) migraines are of particular concern. An ocular migraine is far less common than regular migraine headaches, but it always involves repeated, brief episodes of reduced vision or vision loss. The vision changes may occur just before or during the migraine, and can occur in conjunction with regular migraine symptoms. Diminished vision or vision loss with an ocular migraine only affects one eye and requires a visit to your eye doctor at Silverstein Vision Centers — as such vision-related symptoms may be related to more serious underlying conditions.

HOW CAN AN EYE DOCTOR HELP MIGRAINE SUFFERERS?

Although your primary care doctor or a neurologist may be ideal with helping you manage regular migraines, your eye doctor is key in dealing with ocular migraines or any headache that involves vision changes. First and foremost, your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive eye exam to look for eye-related causes or problems. Once any underlying causes have been determined, your eye doctor will determine the severity of the condition and whether your migraine-related vision changes are permanent or temporary. Then, a treatment and management plan will be designed for your particular needs.

HOME MANAGEMENT FOR MIGRAINE-RELATED VISION CHANGES

Once the cause of your migraine-related vision changes has been determined and your eye doctor has initiated treatment for you, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully, including keeping follow-up visits and notifying your doctor of any changes. Additionally, as soon as you notice visual changes be sure to adjust your activities as appropriate. For example, if you know that you are extremely sensitive to light during migraines, start closing the curtains and reducing the light in your environment. If your migraines are associated with diminished vision or temporary loss of central vision, be sure that you avoid driving. If you must go out to run errands or work, ask someone else to drive you. If you develop any vision changes that are new, different, or last longer than with your typical migraine, be sure to schedule an appointment with your Silverstein Eye Centers doctor for an examination.

Even if you never experience vision changes with your migraines, be sure to let your eye doctor know about your migraine history during your next visit. By describing your typical migraine symptoms, listing your migraine-related medications, and discussing your health history, you will be taking proactive steps in managing your health. This information will allow your Silverstein Eye Centers provider to offer you more comprehensive care and preventative care to preserve your eye health. Call us today at (816) 358-3600 to schedule an appointment. We hope to see you soon!

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