health · migraines

Ocular Migraines – My New Thing

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Did you know that repetitive yawning can be a symptom of impending migraine?

 

I had an appointment with my doctor yesterday and I decided to tell her about the visual symptoms I’ve been experiencing that I’ve just assumed are due to migraines. She asked a bunch of questions and I answered as best I could while feeling super wonky and out of it. This lead to the diagnosis that I suspected: Ocular Migraines.

Ocular migraines are migraines that have a lot of crazy visual symptoms but no, or minimal, headache pain. Other names for ocular migraines are ophthalmic migraines, retinal migraines, eye migraines and silent migraines. My brother was diagnosed with them a few years ago and my mom has had them too.

Although I don’t need any more medical conditions, already having PCOS, fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue and Morphea (an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the skin, leaving spots that look like bruises), I was relieved to get this diagnosis, especially when I got home and read about all the symptoms of migraines. The last couple of months, I’ve been kind of worried that I’m becoming bipolar or have a brain tumor or something. Thankfully, all my crazy ups, downs, hyperactivity and general wonkiness can be explained by the four stages of migraine, the prodrome, aura, headache and postdrome. Although I’ve had migraines off and on for twenty five years, I’d never heard of the prodrome and postdrome stages before!

Prodrome symptoms can be experienced hours or even days before a migraine attack and can include: concentrations problems, depression, difficulty reading, difficulty speaking, diarrhea, fatigue, food cravings, hyperactivity or hypoactivity, increased thirst, increased urination, nausea, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, repetitive yawning, sleep issues, stiff neck and irritability.

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Irritable? Who, me? How dare you!

 

Some of those symptoms really explain my week! I’ve been unable to concentrate, depressed, craving junk food, irritable and sensitive to light and extremely sensitive to sound. It’s like I suddenly have bionic hearing because things that I usually don’t even notice are suddenly deafening, like the sound of my computer humming and the neighbors bouncing their basketball in the cul-de-sac.

After the prodrome, come the aura symptoms which, for me, are the most debilitating: They can include visual symptoms like flashing lights, wavy lines and spots, blurry vision, flashes of light that streak across the visual field and monocular blindness (total blindness in one eye – I had this once. It was terrifying!). Non-visual symptoms can include allodynia (hypersensitivity to touch and feel), aphasia, auditory hallucinations, confusion, decrease in or loss of hearing, dizziness, hemiplegia or motor weakness, hiccups, neck pain, olfactory hallucinations, paresthesia, partial paralysis and reduced sensation.

The headache phase can include much more than headache. Some of the fun symptoms are: increased sensitivity to light, sound and odors, neck pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, nasal congestion and/or runny nose, depression, severe anxiety, hot flashes, chills, dizziness, vertigo, confusion and dehydration or fluid retention.

I think I was definitely in the headache phase in the waiting room at the doctor’s office because being surrounded by people who all constantly moved, talked and made noise nearly drove me out of my mind. I’m not good at being in an enclosed space with people anyway but yesterday was really, really bad because of my increased sensitivity to sound and odor. I’m always bothered by the stench of fabric softener and perfume but the person standing in line in front of me smelled like old food and the whole place just smelled stale. I found myself trying not to breathe, which I’m sure didn’t help with my growing anxiety.

What I still have to look forward to is the postdrome phase. It can last hours to days and is shown to be accompanied or possibly caused by abnormal cerebral flow. That’s not disturbing or anything! Symptoms of postdrome include depression or, alternately, feelings of euphoria, fatigue, poor concentration and comprehension and, get this, lowered intellect levels. I’ve always said my migraines cause brain damage!

The worst thing is, I rarely get just one migraine so I’ll probably go through all these phases a few more times before getting to the postdrome. And the migraines are happening with my hormonal cycles so I’m having at least two clusters of them per month. Fun times!

Oh well, at least there’s a neurological reason rather than a psychiatric reason why I said, “good morning, Darling,” to the flower pot on my front porch!

My doctor prescribed Sumatriptan, which can help prevent migraines, if taken soon enough. The problem I see with this is that the symptoms can be subtle and some of them are symptoms I also experience from fibromyalgia flares. Maybe if I track my migraine symptoms for a month or two I’ll be better able to predict when an attack is coming on. Right now my eyes and the back of my neck hurt. Do I already have a migraine or am I getting one? And how am I supposed to figure this out with my confusion and lowered intellect? :/

*I lifted the information on the four stages of migraine from achenet.org.

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31 thoughts on “Ocular Migraines – My New Thing

  1. Wow I did not know all of that. My neurologist told me that I had that and I thought he was crazy when he said migraine as I do not have them often but he did not prescribe anything he said “This is your new normal learn to live with it” (I love that guy) So I do have all the symptoms that go with it and have gone blind in one eye at least four times a year but I do get a bit of notice before that happens if I am paying attention. It just sucks when driving. Thank you for posting this as my wonderful Dr. is far from helpful.

    1. After hearing about your neurologist, I’m afraid of going to see one! It’s terrible that a doctor would say something like, “this is your new normal, deal with it!” Sadly, I’ve heard the same kind of stories about other doctors too. My mom had a similar experience with a rheumatologist. It’s such a shame that insurances are covering naturopathy less and less because a naturopath would try to get to the cause of the migraines to prevent them all together.

      I’m sorry you have the blind in one eye thing so often. It’s such a scary thing to experience. I’ve had it a few times and, thankfully, it didn’t last very long. Pretty much by the time I figured out that I was actually blind in one eye, the vision started coming back.

      I agree that driving is the thing that really sucks with the visual problems. I’m afraid to drive anywhere when I’m feeling like a migraine might hit. Over the past couple of months, I’ve spent several weeks cooped up at home, afraid to go anywhere. I’ve got to find a better solution than the Sumatriptan. If I discover anything new, I will write a post about it!

  2. Perfect cat photo for this post at the top. It’s not much, but at least if your cycle is a heavy influence you can cling to the idea that maybe you won’t have to deal with it much longer. In fact, peri-menopause is a kinda crazy time anyway, so if you’re getting there, maybe that’s making things worse lately.

    1. I think you’re right. The past couple of months my cycle has been stretching out just a few days longer. I’m thinking I may be starting the peri-menopause stage, which would be okay if it didn’t last so long! I’ve heard it can take up to 10 years to get through the whole thing!

      1. It can take that long, but the initial changes are usually so subtle that a woman might not notice for a long time. Which cuts way down on the perceived length of time. I had never even heard of peri-menopause until a character in a movie mentioned it and I thought, hmmm, what’s that. I looked it up on the internet and realized, ohhhhh, that’s what’s going on! I had around five years of the more dramatic symptoms until I was done, even though the actual time was close to 10 years.

        1. Five years of dramatic symptoms…that sounds pretty scary! My biggest fear about menopause is that my hormones are going to get stuck in the phase where I’m miserable with migraines, food cravings, fatigue, bloating, depression and irritability. I’m still ready for menopause though because I’m just so tired of riding the hormonal rollercoaster!

  3. I hate the auras! I don’t get them often, but when I do I am incapacitated for a couple of hours. More if a migraine headache erupts. Here’s hoping you have some migraine free time for a good while!

    1. Thank you! The auras are horrible and so incapacitating. I mean, what can you really do with blind spots and zig-zaggy lights messing with your vision? I’d almost rather go back to when I had really bad headache pain and very few visual symptoms. Almost. That sucked too!

  4. I’m so sorry to hear this (although I agree, it’s better to know exactly what’s going on). As a long-time sufferer of various types of migraines (plus various other illnesses and that certain time of life), this post really struck home. Purr-fect kitty images! Please take care. My thoughts are with you. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Donna! I’m sorry to hear you’ve had to suffer through migraines and other types of illnesses too. It’s hard when it feels like there’s always something going on and if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

    1. It’s taken awhile to develop my sense of humor about this. Lately, I’ve spent more than a few days wallowing in self-pity. The waterworks tried to turn on while I was in the doctor’s office yesterday but I was able to keep it to just a few tears. I do feel some better now, knowing what it is.

      1. It does help when we finally get an answer. I remember when I was 23 and someone finally said, “you have something called fibromyalgia.”
        I still believe that crying is a good thing (sometimes) Not like days like this, when I am sensitive to every little thing I read.

        1. I felt kind of relieved when I found out I had fibromyalgia too. Fibro sucks but it helps so much to know what’s happening. Not knowing is just so scary. I hope you’re feeling better today.

  5. Sounds terrible. 😦 Like you really need yet another medical condition to contend with, sheesh! I am however, glad to see that your sense of humor is still intact – I chuckled at your last line. 😀
    Hang in there my friend. ♡

    1. I’m hanging in there! I’m determined to find a way to prevent the migraines all together. Waiting for them to strike so I can take a pill that makes me even more tired just isn’t acceptable!

  6. I very occasionally get a very mild ocular migraine (I assume that’s what it is, but maybe not). No headache but the vision in one eye gradually “flares” out and then returns. The first time it happened I thought an artery had exploded and was leaking into my eye or something.
    Those other symptoms sound very nasty.

    1. The visual symptoms are terrifying until you realize what they are! The first time I got a migraine I thought I was dying. Reading that list of symptoms, there are certain combinations I hope no one gets, like sitting on the toilet all day with diarrhea, depressed, blind in one eye and experiencing vertigo and auditory hallucinations. Makes my visual wonkiness and sensory sensitivity sound pleasant in comparison!

  7. Sounds awful, Trisha.
    But, as you say, how on earth are you meant to predict these and take the meds pre-ocular migraine. So many of these symptoms sounds so much like FM (or CFS).

    The trouble with these ‘invisible chronic illnesses’ is that they are so incredibly difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can apply to a number of health conditions.

    I had severe headaches every single day for 5 months prior to quitting work. Brain Scans, ophthalmology testing etc found nothing except corneal exhaustion and deteriorating eyesight (meaning I had to stop wearing contact lenses as the gas permeable lenses kept sticking to my eyes without normal tear production). I remember once being the last in the Doctor’s waiting room and having to ask the receptionist to turn off the low background music as it was deafening. Had a month off work and spent the first week in a dark room unable to do anything. When I returned to work, within a couple of hours the headache was so bad I couldn’t do my work and finally, had to hand in my notice and quit working altogether. Nowadays, at the faintest sign of a headache I stop whatever I’m doing and change my day’s activities.

    I also drink a couple of glasses of water and that helps, leading me to suspect some of it might have been dehydration. I’ve always been a big water drinker so the concept of dehydration is a pretty rare thing for me. But it’s hard to remember in winter when it’s cold and you don’t feel like water.

    1. That must have been unspeakably awful to have headaches every day for five months. The longest stretch of consecutive days for me to have migraines is nine. I was feeling so desperate by the end of it. I can’t even imagine five months of it.

      Most places I go, I know I will end up with a headache if I have to stay there very long. There are very few places that I could work. Everywhere is so noisy. Why people insist on playing music when there are so many other noises and things going on is just beyond me. I can’t handle it, which is why I stay cloistered at home most of the time.

  8. Humans have so much to deal with.I am glad you got a diagnosis even though as you said you already have quite enough to deal with. Remember when you feel bad you are not “going crazy” you are experiencing symptoms. I told my son to talk to his plants and give them encouragement. Even plants appreciate a little ❤

  9. Thanks for sharing the important info AND how you advocated for yourself. Way to go, Trisha. I hope peace finds you soon.
    Also, the cat with the wide open mouth is such a perfect picture for a migraine moment. I appreciate how you can slide in something light while you dive into a serious topic.

    1. I try to keep things light and add some humor. Sometimes it’s hard though. I started several posts last week that I ended up deleting because they sounded negative and whiny. I’m trying hard to get back to the bright side this week!

  10. Always good to know what’s happening to oneself rather than continue to worry about extreme possibilities. Love that you included your sense of humor in this difficult journey, “Good morning, Darling” to your flower pot.” Love how you used the photos of your beautiful cats to lighten the piece. Take care!

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