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5900 Heckert Rd.
P.O. Box 324
Bakerstown, PA 15007
724-443-6767 Phone
724-443-6730 Fax

4001 Freeport Rd.
Natrona Heights, PA 15065
724-226-0444 Phone
724-226-0744 Fax


Understanding Migraines and Their Impact on Eye Health

Migraines are more than just severe headaches. They can be debilitating episodes that affect various aspects of a person’s life, including their vision. Understanding the connection between migraines and eye care is crucial for managing both conditions effectively.

These intense, throbbing headaches are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. They can last anywhere from a few hours to several days and can significantly impact daily activities. According to the World Health Organization, migraines are among the most disabling medical conditions globally.

The Connection Between Migraines and Vision

Migraines can have a profound impact on vision. Some common vision-related symptoms include:

  • Visual Aura is a common symptom experienced by about 25% of people with migraines. It usually occurs before the headache starts and lasts for about 20-60 minutes. Auras can include flashing lights, zigzag patterns, or blind spots.
    • Why It Happens: These visual disturbances are caused by changes in the brain’s electrical activity and blood flow, particularly in areas that process visual information.
  • Increased sensitivity to light, known as Photophobia, is a hallmark symptom of migraines. Bright lights can trigger or worsen migraine pain.
    • Why It Happens: Photophobia during migraines is believed to be due to overactivity in the brain areas that process light. The retina and optic nerve may also be more sensitive during a migraine attack.
  • Blurry vision can occur during or after a migraine attack, making it difficult to focus on objects.
    • Why It Happens: Blurry vision may result from the aura or as a side effect of the pain and stress associated with the migraine.
  • Some migraine sufferers report experiencing “Visual Snow,” which appears as tiny flickering dots or static in the visual field.
    • Why It Happens: This phenomenon is not fully understood but is thought to be related to abnormal visual processing in the brain during a migraine.

Eye Conditions That Can Mimic Migraines

Certain eye conditions can present with symptoms similar to migraines, making accurate diagnosis and treatment important. These include:

  • Ocular Migraine: Also known as retinal migraine, it involves repeated episodes of temporary vision loss or visual disturbances in one eye, typically followed by a headache.
  • Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This eye condition causes a rapid increase in eye pressure and can mimic migraine symptoms with sudden, severe eye pain, headache, and visual disturbances.

Regular eye exams are vital for individuals who experience migraines, as they can help rule out or manage eye-related issues. Comprehensive eye exams can detect eye conditions that may contribute to migraine symptoms, such as dry eye, refractive errors, or ocular misalignment. For those with photophobia, specially tinted glasses can help reduce light sensitivity and minimize migraine triggers. Adjusting screen brightness, using anti-glare screens, and taking regular breaks can help reduce eye strain and potentially decrease the frequency of migraines.

According to the Mayo Clinic lifestyle changes can help manage and reduce the frequency of migraines.

These lifestyle changes include:

  • Maintaining a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Irregular sleep patterns can trigger migraines.
  • Staying Hydrated: Dehydration is a common migraine trigger.
  • Managing Stress: Techniques like meditation, yoga, and regular exercise can help reduce stress levels.
  • Avoiding Known Triggers: Identifying and avoiding personal migraine triggers, such as certain foods, caffeine, or alcohol, can prevent attacks.

If you experience new or worsening visual symptoms during a migraine, it’s important to seek medical advice. Sudden vision changes, severe eye pain, or persistent visual disturbances should be evaluated promptly to rule out more serious conditions. Collaboration between eye care professionals at Bissell Eye Care and neurologists can provide a holistic approach to managing migraines and their visual symptoms.

Regular eye care is important to manage the visual disturbances associated with migraines. If you suffer from migraines, consider discussing your symptoms with the doctors at Bissell Eye Care and your healthcare provider to create a comprehensive management plan.

About Bissell Eye Care: John D. Bissell, OD owns and operates Bissell Eye Care servicing Northern Pittsburgh and Alle-Kiski Valley regions. With two locations to treat patients, we offer evening appointments. Bissell Eye Care provides comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family beginning as early as 6 months, ocular disease detection and treatment, eyeglasses, sunglasses, activewear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. We accept most types of vision and health insurance plans. For more information, visit or call our Bakerstown Office at 724-443-6767 or Natrona Heights office at 724-226-0444.