Many of us have had a migraine or a headache that was just so painful that it seemed to affect our eyesight. Though we may have just brushed it off as these vision symptoms “being in our head”, the truth is migraines and headaches have a significant impact on our eyesight.
Headaches and migraines (especially ocular migraines) can cause temporary blindness among other symptoms. What causes this to happen during or after migraines and headaches is not known for sure, but experts have their theories.
Before we get into how migraines and headaches can affect our vision, we need to first distinguish the differences between the two.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches. They are the headaches you get when your boss tells you that report they said was due on Friday is actually due on Wednesday; or when midterms approach and you haven’t begun studying yet; or when the kids wake up screaming at five in the morning.
You know what I’m talking about. These types of headaches can happen frequently depending on your stress levels and current health.
Tension headaches can be caused by stress, a cold or flu, caffeine, alcohol, fatigue and wearing the wrong prescription glasses or contact lenses. They’re often not very severe. Will they annoy you and slow you down? Maybe, but they won’t debilitate you like a migraine will… but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Symptoms of a tension headache include pressure around the forehead, a dull pain or throbbing inside your head and pain in the neck and upper back.
Women are more likely than men to suffer from headaches. Treating a tension headache can be easily done at home if it isn’t severe. Taking aspirin occasionally to relieve you of the headache symptoms is quite safe. However, many medical professionals will warn against taking aspirin too often to cure your headaches.
Using aspirin as a crutch will eventually lead to more headaches. Your body will become accustomed to the aspirin that when the medication wears off, you will still be left with a headache.
Before reaching for the aspirin, ask yourself if you think the pain will go away with a quick nap? Naps are magic when it comes to headaches. If you can sleep through a nap without the headache keeping you awake, chances are you don’t need that aspirin.
How Headaches Affect Our Eyes
The most common way a tension headache will affect our vision is by causing sensitivity to light, otherwise known as photophobia. Headaches will often cause your senses to be more delicate, which is why loud noises will also seem louder than normal.
When you have a headache, the best thing to do is to avoid bright lights. This will prevent any eye discomfort or eye pain that could follow prolonged exposure to bright lights while being so sensitive.
Migraines on the other hand are a severe type of headache that are often accompanied by other symptoms in the body, including the eyes. When a migraine hits, you will feel a pulsing or throbbing on one side of the head.
When it happens, the migraine will come on suddenly. You’ll feel a pain on one side of the head and although the pain can occur on either side of the head, it will normally manifest on the right side.
The symptoms of a migraine differ from a tension headache. Here are some common symptoms:
- Pain while performing physical tasks
- Inability to do daily work because of pain
- Extreme temperature changes
- Excessive sweating (cold and hot sweats)
What causes a migraine exactly is widely unknown. Causes of headaches are well-known, but how they transform into migraines is not. Experts seem to suggest that extreme stress is to blame.
As a result, lifestyle changes are the most recommended way to treat migraines. Some lifestyle changes include:
- Eliminating stress
- Getting more sleep (at least 8-10 hours a day)
- Staying hydrated
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding alcohol
If your migraine persists for longer than a day or you experience them frequently, talk to your doctor. They will be able to recommend further lifestyle changes and help you pin point the exact problem.
How it Affects Our Eyes: Ocular Migraines and Auras
Ocular migraines are rare but they can affect people who suffer frequently from migraines. Ocular migraines cause temporary blindness in one eye. Normally, this type of blindness won’t last longer than an hour.
Though it is typically due to a migraine, an ocular migraine can be caused by other conditions. If you experience an ocular migraine, it is important to talk to your doctor so that they can rule out any dangerous conditions.
Sometimes these ocular migraines can cause permanent vision loss if caused by another condition.
Another way migraines can affect our eyes is by causing something called an aura. An aura refers to any flashing lights or spotting in your vision. You may experience both of these during a migraine episode. A migraine aura will affect both eyes, unlike an ocular migraine which will only affect one eye.
How to Prevent Headaches and Migraines
If you have frequent headaches and migraines that happen more than twice a month, you should look into keeping a headache journal. In this journal you would jot down the date, the time of day your headache occurred, what you were doing when it happened, and where you were.
Headaches and migraines can only be prevented when you know what triggered it. Keeping a journal or a diary can help you understand what is causing your frequent headaches. It will also help your doctor recommend the best course of action.
The next time you feel a headache coming on, nip it in the bud. Put your health above anything else.