Migraines are a common neurological condition that is more prevalent in women. A classic migraine usually may start with visual symptoms- zigzag lines, lightning bolts, kaleidoscope looking images are all common. Usually the visual symptoms expand over a period of time ranging from 10-30 minutes but sometimes much longer. Severe pounding headaches will follow and may be associated with nausea, light sensitivity and vomiting. Sometimes the visual symptoms may occur without the headache. This is often referred to as an ocular migraine or a migraine variant.
Common migraines may only cause a headache felt on both sides of the head without the accompanying visual symptoms. This form of migraine may be responsible for the headaches which many people attribute to tension, stress or sinus pain.
It is not exactly known what causes migraine. It is believed to be an abnormality in the neurotransmitter serotonin. During a migraine attaché the serotonin affects blood vessels often times causing them to constrict. These changes then result in a decrease in oxygen supply to the brain. Certain foods may trigger a migraine attack including aged cheese, nitrates, chocolate, red wine, MSG, caffeine, aspartame (NutraSweet) and alcohol.
Hormonal changes are also frequently associated with migraine thus the increased frequency in women. Many women suffer with migraines during the same point in their menstrual cycle. Many patients also attribute their migraines to stress. While stress does not cause migraines it may contribute to the frequency of attacks. Patients who experience migraines will often time have a family history of headaches or prior history of motion sickness.
Symptoms of migraine include pounding pain on one side of your head, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting, and visual symptoms. The common visual symptoms are a spot of blurring that expands to one side, zigzag lines or shimmering lights, and loss of vision in one eye only. Rarer symptoms include double vision, lid drooping and pupil size changes. In extremely rare cases the visual problems may be due to a stroke that is associated with the migraine.
Treatments for migraines include avoiding known triggers such as foods and environmental factors. Over the counter anti-inflammatories such as aspirin or ibuprofen may reduce the severity of an attack. Several medications that deal directly with the presumed chemical imbalances of migraine are available and include Imitrex, Maxalt, Amerge and Zomig.
Frequent serve attacks may also be treated with medication on a preventative basis. It is important to see you primary care doctor as well as your ophthalmologist should you suffer from these symptoms. Other ophthalmic conditions such as retinal tears may result in some of the same visual symptoms. At North Shore Eye Care all of our board certified ophthalmologists can diagnose migraines. Sometimes referral to a neurologist may also be called for. Call 631 265 8780 to schedule an appointment at one of our ten offices. We have convenient night and weekend hours to fit your busy schedule.