What’s happening in your head when a migraine is so bad? Well, let’s just say it can be so bad that it can make you lose your vision.
A noggin’ gripping headache is bad enough, but unfortunately for some people, it might only get worse.
Huffpost recounts the story of 30-year De Elizabeth from Boston, whose migraine had caused her to lose her vision for a few minutes.
“All of a sudden, I started seeing weird bright lights in the corner of my eyes, and after a few minutes, I couldn’t see anything on the page. Everything was white, and I also had a splitting headache,” said Elizabeth.
The phenomenon that struck Elizabeth at the time is coined a migraine with ‘a visual aura,’ and more than 38 million Americans suffering from the migraine-induced condition, along with nausea and extreme pain.
Andrew Charles, a professor of neurology and director of the UCLA Goldberg Migraine Program Medical told Huffpost that medical professionals believe that this type of a migraine is often misunderstood.
The most common misnomer is an ocular migraine, and Charles says that it is incorrect, since it implies the problem lies in the eye.
“In fact, what causes this is waves of abnormal activity that travel across the surface of the brain in the part of the brain that controls vision. Even though often interpreted by patients and physicians as something happening it in the eye, it is something that is happening in the brain,” said Charles.
These disruptive waves of activity that affect the sufferer’s vision varies from person to person, adds Kevin Weber, an assistant professor of neurology in the headache division of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The ‘auras’ can appear as a spot in the middle of your field of vision, as sparking or flashing lights, black or white dots, zigzag or squiggle lines, and can be disproportionate in size.
Those who experience these types of migraines generally notice a change in vision that precedes the onset of a headache, added Weber.
There are even cases of people who experience visual auras without ever having a migraine afterward, although it is rare.
If you are one of the many who has chronic migraines and also experience these visual auras, you’re in luck, because treatment for its management isn’t some far-off potion in a different land.
Doctors treat migraines accompanied by visual auras the same way they treat normal migraines.
Huffpost also talked with Hunaldo Villalobos, a neurosurgeon with the Central Florida Neurosurgery Institute, who said he begins consultations with a close examination of their lifestyle.
“Migraines are a well documented genetic condition,” Villalobos said. “Combine the genetic predisposition with environmental factors like a lack of proper sleep, skipping meals, a change in daily routine, and this can predispose one to migraine headaches.”
While many seek treatment for their migraines, a surprising number of people choose to just live with their migraines.
“Occasionally they interfere with vision enough that people may need to stop what they are doing, but often people can continue to function while they are having them,” he said.
While a daily low-dose aspirin prescription is enough for most, an improvement was noted most in those who combined the medicine with a change in their lifestyle: daily exercise, regular sleep, and proper hydration.