Ocular Migraines

Ocular migraines are painless, temporary visual disturbances that may affect one or both eyes. They are usually harmless and disappear within 30 minutes. Medication is not normally required.

Migraine Headache Coming From Your Eyes

If the ocular migraine is followed by a throbbing, headache that is on one side, this is called a “migraine with aura”.

If there is no visual disturbance, this is known as “migraine without aura”.

The aura’s are usually visual, but can affect your hearing, speech or smell. There may also be a numbness or tingling in the face or arms or legs.

Symptoms of Ocular Migraines

You may notice a small blind spot that slowly gets bigger in your central vision.

Flashing or flickering lights or wavy zig-zag lines around the blind spot.

It may last only a few minutes but may go on for about 30 minutes.

Causes of Ocular Migraines

It may be genetic. Most people who get migraines have a family history of migraine headaches.

Migraines are triggered by activation of a mechanism deep within the brain, which releases inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head and brain. Why this happens, and why it gets spontaneously resolved is unknown.

Migraines most commonly affect adults in their 30’s and 40’s, but they may start at puberty and can also affect children. Women are more affected than men.

Certain foods can trigger a migraine attack. Theses include aged cheese, caffeinated drinks, red wine, smoked meats and chocolate. Artificial sweeteners can also trigger an attack in some people.

Other triggers include cigarette smoke, perfumes and other strong smells, bright flickering lights, lack of sleep and stress.

Treatment of Ocular Migraines

Ocular migraines are typically harmless and don’t normally require treatment as they disappear within 30 minutes. If you are driving and an ocular migraine occurs, pull over to the side of the road and rest until your vision returns to normal.

See your doctor if you want advice or want to try to prevent future attacks.

Also, it is very important to make an appointment with your optometrist or ophthalmologist whenever you experience any unusual visual symptoms. This will rule out any sight threatening conditions like a detached retina, which requires immediate attention.

Make a note of the foods you were eating and your activities just prior to the migraine attack to see if you can identify certain triggers and avoid them in the future.

If your migraines are stress related, try eating healthier foods on a regular basis, get plenty of sleep and try relaxing activities like a massage or yoga.

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    Which Eye Drops To Use?

    Whenever you walk into any pharmacy or outlet like Clicks, you would have noticed quite a large selection of over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops. This can be very confusing because there are other eye drops which you can only obtain with a doctors prescription.

    When Are Eye Drops Needed?

    The type of eye drop or ointment you will need depends on what eye condition you have, e.g. dryness, itching, swelling, redness, soreness, allergies or infection. Obviously, when you have an infection of if any of these symptoms are severe, it’s always best to consult your optometrist or ophthalmologist.

    Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

    Many ordinary OTC eye drops will provide relief for short-term dry eyes, where the eyes get dry when you are tired or spending a lot of time in front of the computer or doing lots of reading. Other causes of temporary dryness include being outside in windy and sunny conditions, on a long flight or if you don’t drink enough water.

    Always avoid decongestant eye drops. These are drops that give relief to red eyes. These drops take the redness away but also cause dry eyes. I normally recommend Refresh Tears, Systane or Optive. These can also be used with contact lenses.

    Long-term dryness can occur with aging (especially in women), certain medications like diuretics and antidepressants and some auto immune diseases like Sjogrens syndrome. For long-term dry eyes, a gel or ointment may be needed. Refresh liquigel or Celluvisc normally work quite well. Some gels can cause blurring of vision for a few minutes and you may want to use them at night while sleeping.

    If OTC drops don’t help, you will need to see your optometrist for dry eye testing and additional treatment.

    Eye Drops for Redness

    Red eyes can be caused by dryness, allergies, infections, tiredness or a combination of these. Before you use drops for red eyes (decongestants), you should consult your optometrist to determine the underlying cause. Decongestants shrink the blood vessels of the sclera and make the eyes appear whiter. But they mask the cause of the redness. They also cause dryness and irritation if used too often. Also, your eyes may become dependant on them to stay white and clear, forcing you to use them more and more.

    If your eyes are red due to dryness or tiredness, I suggest you try a non-preservative OTC lubricating eye drop for relief.

    Eye Drops for Allergies and Itching

    Itchy eyes are almost always a symptom of an allergy.  This will require specific types of eye drops. Sometimes allergies can cause other symptoms like swelling, redness, watery eyes and puffy eyes, for which OTC drops can help.

    Allergy symptoms can result from change in season (spring time), or if you are exposed to something you are allergic to. This causes the release of histamines which makes your eyes red, irritated, puffy and sore. And this is made worse by rubbing your eyes. There are various OTC antihistamine eye drops available that treat itching due to allergies by reducing the histamine in the eye tissues. For severe itching that does not improve with OTC treatments, it is best to see your optometrist or ophthalmologist for prescription drops or oral medications.

    Eye Drops for Pain, Swelling or Discharge

    For any type of eye pain, it is vital to see your optometrist or ophthalmologist first, to determine the underlying cause.

    Usually, eyes become sore because they are dry, strained, tired or just overworked. Rubbing your eyes initially feels good, but they will feel worse after a while. A comprehensive eye examination will determine if the soreness is due to a focusing problem related to shortsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or presbyopia.

    Dry eyes are another common cause of eye pain, which is relieved with lubricating eye drops. These drops may also help with certain types of discharge.

    However, thick yellowish discharge caused by eye infections may require a prescription for antibiotic eye drops.

    Eye Drops for “Pink Eye” Infections

    The common infections most people get are called “pink eye”. Pink eye or conjunctivitis can either be bacterial, viral or allergic. (See article on pink eye.)

    If you are using eye drops for eye infections it is important never to touch the tip of the bottle onto your eye. This will contaminate the bottle and spread the infection.

    Using the appropriate OTC eye drops can be cheaper and quicker than a visit to your optometrist or ophthalmologist. But rather get them involved instead of being your own doctor. If you are going to gamble, don’t do it with your eyes.

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