Should I See An Eye Doctor for Migraines?
Migraines often cause vision changes, which is why it makes sense that you might need to visit an eye doctor. Not only is the severe headache causing these vision disruptions, but it’s also possible that vision issues could be contributing to chronic headaches.
A comprehensive eye exam is an important step to rule out any potential eye problem that might be affecting your migraines or chronic headaches.
Even though there aren’t always underlying vision problems that are affecting migraines, it’s important to talk to an eye doctor to rule out potential issues.
Can an Eye Exam Diagnose a Migraine?
In the past (more than a century ago), it was believed that eyesight issues, such as eye strain or astigmatism, were the root cause of migraines. The belief was that prescribing glasses could eliminate the migraines.
Now, eye doctors understand that migraines are complex. It’s still unknown why patients experience vision disturbances when a migraine is present.
Vision disruptions, such as flashes of light, loss of vision in one eye, or zigzag patterns, usually lead a patient to talk to an eye doctor right away. The eye doctor will complete a dilated eye exam to see if there is anything that could be contributing to these symptoms.
If the exam uncovers nothing major, then the vision disruptions could be caused by a migraine. Eye doctors don’t diagnose migraines or provide treatment for migraines. But an eye exam is often the first place a patient starts because the symptoms associated with migraines often affect their vision.
Ruling Out Other Eye Conditions
A comprehensive eye exam doesn’t necessarily provide the information needed for migraine diagnosis. But these tests can provide the doctors more information to identify other underlying issues that might be affecting the migraine symptoms.
Also, it’s important to rule out other eye conditions that could be harmful to your vision. For example, since migraines can involve loss of vision, eye pain, vision changes, or light sensitivity, then it’s important to ensure there isn’t another eye disorder causing these symptoms.
The Difference Between Migraines and Common Headaches
The phrase “headache” encompasses a range of conditions that cause head pain. There are a few important distinguishing factors to differentiate between a common headache and a migraine.
While headaches vary in the type of pain, intensity, and frequency, migraines are classified by extreme pain and serious symptoms. When a migraine hits, it likely gets in the way of daily activities. Often, someone with a migraine is no longer able to function and they need to lay down in a dim room until the migraine symptoms subside.
Often, people with migraines have recurring episodes. When a migraine happens, it results in a throbbing headache and intense symptoms that last from a few hours up to a few days.
Do You Need to Schedule an Eye Exam if Your Head Hurts?
Most of the time, headaches are due to tension – which has little to do with vision. It’s always a good idea to talk to an eye doctor if you have concerns or questions, but changing your prescription won’t necessarily be the only step in treating migraines.
It’s also important to consider overall lifestyle and how your daily activities could be affecting head pain and migraines.
For example, do you find that headaches are more frequent when you are spending a lot of time at the computer? Then you might be experiencing eye strain (a headache is one of the symptoms of eye strain).
An eye doctor can help you identify the underlying reason for your migraines or headaches. Then, you can take steps to minimize the triggers that are contributing to these issues.
The term ocular migraine generally refers to a situation when a headache is accompanied by vision changes. This type of migraine can be one of the following conditions:
- Migraine Aura: A variety of sensations are occurring that affect the person’s visual perceptions. Visual symptoms don’t last long, but might include zigzagging patterns, light flashes, shimmering spots, and/or blind spots. The visual disruptions can be severe enough that they disrupt a person’s ability to drive or read.
- Retinal Migraine: This rare condition affects one eye (not both eyes). It might be accompanied by a headache, as well as blindness or diminished vision that only lasts for a short time.
Also, keep in mind that ocular migraines can cause vision problems without coexisting headache symptoms. For example, you might notice that your vision changes, but there is no associated head pain.
Regardless of the type of vision loss you are experiencing, it’s essential to talk to an eye doctor as soon as possible. The vision disruptions might be caused by a migraine, or it could be a more serious condition that requires prompt medical treatment.
Identifying Your Migraine Triggers
Not only does an eye exam rule out potential eye diseases that could be impacting your vision. But eliminating potential issues is an important step to help you narrow down the triggers that are contributing to migraines or a headache disorder.
Potential migraine triggers might include:
- Lack of sleep
- Anxiety or depression
- Alcohol consumption
- Specific foods
- Environmental changes
- Hormonal changes
- Medication usage
- Intense physical exertion
- Sensory stimuli, such as flashing lights, loud sounds, or strong smells
Can an Eye Doctor Help with Migraine Treatment?
An eye doctor has limited options to treat migraines. But there are things that can be done to alleviate the symptoms and prevent migraine triggers.
For example, an eye doctor can consult with each patient about light exposure, such as electronic screens and bright fluorescent lights (which can contribute to migraine attacks). The eye doctor might suggest light filtering glasses, such as blue light blockers to reduce eyestrain.
Working with a Team of Doctors to Manage Migraines
Often, a primary care physician will recommend that you also consult with other specialists if you are experiencing chronic headaches and migraines. A team of doctors can narrow down the causes of these serious symptoms, and help you find an optimal treatment plan to improve your condition.
For example, you might schedule an eye exam and also talk to a neurologist for additional testing.
If you are looking for solutions for migraines and visual concerns, then our team is here to help with comprehensive eye care services. We offer full-service solutions for the whole family, including routine eye exams, diagnostics, and treatment protocols.
EyesNY is proud to offer multiple locations in the community, making it convenient to visit with an eye doctor. Reach out to talk to our office about available services and book an appointment with an eye care specialist.