Retinal migraine

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A retinal migraine is a condition affecting the eye that causes brief episodes of blindness or visual issues such as flashing of lights in one eye. The episodes can be alarming but they are relatively harmless in most circumstances and brief while the eye sight normalizes after.

Some individuals experience it a few times over several months but the frequency tends to vary. Remember that this is a distinct condition that should not be mixed up with a headache-type migraine or one that occurs with an aura that does not affect vision or both eyes.

What are the indications of a retinal migraine?

The signs and symptoms of a retinal migraine can include the following:

  • Partial or total loss of vision in one eye that usually lasts for 10-20 minutes before the vision returns gradually.
  • A headache can occur before, during or after the vision attack.

It is unusual for an episode of vision loss to persist longer than an hour. The same eye is affected every time in almost all circumstances.

Retinal headache
A headache can occur before, during or after the vision attack.

The vision might slowly turn blurry or dim or there are sparks of light. Some individuals might see a mosaic-like outline of blank spots that enlarge to trigger complete loss of vision.

When to seek medical care

Once the eyesight abruptly deteriorates, set an appointment with a doctor so that any eye abnormalities and indications of an eye disease can be detected.

If the individual loses eyesight abruptly especially for the first time, a doctor should be seen right away. Take note that there are other serious causes of vision loss that the doctor might want to rule out.

What are the causes?

A retinal migraine is brought about by the abrupt narrowing of the blood vessels in the eye that reduces the flow of blood to the area. It can also be triggered by the following:

  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • High blood pressure
  • Using hormonal birth control pills
  • High altitudes
  • Bending over
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive heat
  • Low blood sugar

Once the blood vessels relax, the flow of blood is restored and vision returns. In most cases, there are no irregularities within the eye and lasting damage to the eye is rare.

Risk factors

Retinal migraine is quite common among the following:

  • Women
  • Individuals aged below 40
  • Individuals who have a family history of migraines or other types of headaches
  • Individuals with underlying diseases such as sickle cell disease, lupus, epilepsy, giant cell arteritis and antiphospholipid syndrome.

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