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An Undiagnosed Vision Problem Was Contributing to My Migraines

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My early 20s were defined by a few key things. I met my now husband. I completed a master’s degree. And I regularly experienced debilitating migraines.

Everyone I knew at the time was going out and enjoying life in Chicago while I was stuck in a dark room, vomiting, and taking over-the-counter migraine medications. My roommate popped in periodically just to make sure I was still alive.

My migraine attacks didn’t happen often enough for them to be considered chronic, but they were so frustrating! I cancelled plans at the last minute. I took days off of work at the most inconvenient times. Bright lights bothered me. I felt stuck.

I couldn’t find a rhyme or reason as to why I had migraine flare-ups so often. The dehydration also had an impact. Maybe my symptoms were related to stress and my diet? I tried every at-home remedy, but nothing seemed to make a difference.

I figured a migraine was just something you had to deal with. I just had to ride them out and hope for the best.

Getting help for my migraines

It wasn’t until migraine severely interfered with my job that I realized I needed to get help.

As I sat at my desk and lost the vision in my left eye, my first thought was that I had a brain tumor. I panicked. I couldn’t read the left side of my spreadsheet. It happened almost instantly and was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I closed my eyes and tried to will it away.

“Don’t panic. There’s a reasonable explanation for this,” I thought to myself.

I put my hand over my left eye and texted my husband while squinting at my phone and furiously typing with one hand. “I think I’m going blind,” it read.

The aura, sensitivity to light, vomiting, and intense pain set in a few moments later. I knew then what happened: It was a migraine. And the worst one I’d ever experienced.

I decided to see a doctor when I left work that day. I couldn’t keep letting the migraines win.

My primary care doctor couldn’t provide a lot of information. Sadly, migraines are relatively common among women and are linked to a number of causes.

Doctors concluded that my migraines were likely related to stress and eye strain from the computer. I spent almost all of my day on the computer. And most people experiences stress.

I started medication and ordered a pair of blue light blocking glasses to help with the computer strain. It worked, for a while.

Realizing my eyes might be the problem

A few years later, I was driving to my parents’ house when I realized that I couldn’t read the street signs in their neighborhood. The signs were small. But I couldn’t remember it being an issue before.

Then I remembered THE migraine. Was this another symptom?

I took some over-the-counter migraine medication and had a nice visit with my family. On the drive home, it was dark and every red light had an aura around it. I was getting another migraine. It was in full swing by the time I made it home.

Was it my vision? Or just the nature of migraine? They always impacted my vision. But my doctor never discussed vision as a possible cause for my migraines.

I visited the optometrist a few days later and had my first proper comprehensive vision exam. I’d only ever taken reading tests in elementary school or vision exams for sports physicals.

Turns out I needed glasses for astigmatism. This common condition prevents light from focusing on your retina properly. It makes your vision fuzzy and can lead to headaches.

It seemed like such a simple solution to a problem that had plagued me for years. No wonder bright lights, computer screens, and low lighting bothered my eyes. My eyes were straining every moment!

A surprise solution to my migraines

I’ve now been wearing glasses for a year. I haven’t had a migraine since.

I still focus on my former migraine prevention tools like staying well hydrated, making sure I have a balanced diet, doing yoga to de-stress, and getting adequate sleep. But now migraines are no longer a weekly occurrence. I feel like I got my life back!

It’s important to note that most migraine headaches are not caused by eye strain. But it’s still a good idea to get your eyes checked if you suffer from regular migraines. It could be life-changing!

For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

Sources

NPS-US-NP-00552 DECEMBER 2019