Migraine sufferers will tell you: unless you’ve had one, you just don’t understand. It’s the kind of pain that can bring a grown man to his knees in an instant and have a mom hiding under the covers to avoid light. Just a tiny glimpse at the miserable phenomenon known as migraine.
Over 25 million Americans are chronic migraine victims. And, 70% are adult women – count such well-knowns as Loretta Lynn, Whoopie Goldberg and Carly Simon among them.
Migraine pain may be a thing of some lore, but you might be surprised about the vision problems it can cause. A lot of the time, migraine sets off temporary light flashes, known as auras, or short-lived vision loss.
“There’s no doubt that migraine headaches and related visual problems, such as auras and even partial loss of vision for short periods, cause enormous discomfort for millions of people,” says John F. Amos, O.D. Dr. Amos is a VSP doctor and professor of optometry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
That discomfort – or downright agony – is reason enough to visit your family doctor. If you think you or someone you care about is suffering from migraine, that check is important to nail down a treatment plan – and also rule out more serious conditions. But, for the vision end of the migraine ordeal, the best help is from an eyecare doctor. He or she can offer more specialized care and information, says Dr. Amos.
“Because most eye doctors have a great deal of experience with the visual aspects of migraine,” he says, “they often can give a patient custom-tailored advice about vision issues related to this disorder.”
Those issues? The auras mentioned above are one version, where streaks of light and sparkles invade the eyes anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Another is ocular migraine – a temporary loss of vision in one eye. It can happen at any point during a migraine cycle.
It takes an experienced optometrist to get to understand the nuances of migraine-related vision problems, says Dr. Amos. Only then can he or she give the best advice for each and every situation. For instance, he or she might give important pointers on responding to migraine-related central vision loss at the worst times – like when driving.
“Regardless of the form your particular migraine might take, it’s important to tell your eyecare provider about it,” says Dr. Amos. “So far, we haven’t found a cure for migraine, but we do know how to make life a good bit easier for many migraine victims!”