Sometime in our lives, we experience headaches that come and go and are often so severe that our daily routines are affected. Oftentimes, when these headaches occur, we also experience some form of visual changes. Then we say, “It’s probably just a migraine.”
1. What is a migraine?
Migraine is a recurrent type of headache that is severely painful and usually occurs only on one side of the head. An aura occurs right before one of these attacks. An aura could be manifested as visual flashes or spots or even ringing in the ears which is opposite of the side where the headache is about to occur. The migraine attack may also come with symptoms of dizziness, vomiting, nausea and double vision.
2. What is an optical migraine?
As opposed to a real migraine, an optical migraine also involves an aura that comes before a migraine attack, but there is the absence of pain. This is rarer than the migraine that comes with severe pain. It is also know as acephalgic migraine or visual or ocular migraine. It is a migraine aura unaccompanied by headache.
The visual disturbances that are experienced are flashing lights that look like zigzag or “fortress-like” lights. These auras usually begin as small visual marches crossing the field of vision that slowly fades away. Attacks like these last for several minutes to almost an hour.
If it will come with a headache, the pain will follow in an hour. An optical migraine can also be experienced as a blind spot in the field of vision.
3. How sure am I that I am experiencing an optical migraine?
Migraines are usually diagnosed if the same symptoms are experiences over and over in many years. It is optical migraine if the same aura is experienced. In case there is a change in the visual pattern, it might be something more serious. A doctor should be consulted in this case.
4. What could be the cause of these migraines?
The cause for migraine is not yet confirmed, it has remained unknown. However, there have been theories that these headaches are caused by allergies, temporary edema of the brain and even endocrine disturbances. One thing is for sure, it is due to disturbance in the blood circulation in the brain. It has been proven that the pain is associated with the narrowing of blood vessels in the brain followed by dilation.
5. What could be more serious causes of headaches if they are not migraines?
Not all headaches are migraines and not all visual disturbances are caused by migraines. There could be more serious causes that may force you to consult a doctor. Visual changes can also be caused by partial seizures, a retina in the eye could have been detached, a “mini-stroke” or a transient ischemic attack, multiple sclerosis or even a brain tumor.
6. Who is more likely to get an optical migraine?
Optical migraines are usually experienced by more women than men at a ratio of 3:1. This is an illness that is usually inherited.
7. What is the common treatment for optical migraines?
Sedatives and aspirin are common medications prescribed to patients with this illness. Resting or sleeping in a dark room usually relieves the symptoms. However, if the aural migraine is accompanied by severe headache, injection of triptans or ingestion or nasal spraying of the same drug gives relief. Beta-blockers, antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs are also effective for most patients.
It is important to recognize the aura that comes before the headache so that medication can be taken before the actual attack. This will prevent the pain from setting in. Biofeedback has been proven to be a good type of therapy for patients who get these attacks.
Having all these in mind, you would now know if you are experiencing an ordinary headache or a true-blue migraine. Now, you could also determine if those weird visual disturbances are auras previous to a migraine attack or if it is an optical migraine.
What is important here is for you to recognize the symptoms that go with the headache. Observation is the key. You must recognize the tell-tale sign that you are about to get a full-blown attack of a migraine or if you should seek medical help because it is a sign of something more serious. Never take these headaches for granted, they could mean your life.