Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Flash of Light

For me, it all started about two years ago when I noticed myself feeling dizzy and occasionally seeing “flashes” of light. The best way to describe these flashes would be to imagine bright sparkles fluttering into your line of vision and then fading away after a few seconds. The flashes seem to come and go randomly, although I believe heat is a trigger because they are likely to occur while I am in a hot shower or blow drying my hair. Along with these bizarre flashes of light, I began to experience headaches that made me feel lightheaded and woozy. Concerned, I consulted my doctor who referred me to an ophthalmologist, their conclusion—ocular migraines.

For those of you who have never heard of ocular migraines, they are a rare type of migraine affecting 1 out of every 200 people with migraines. They are unique because along with a headache, your vision becomes impaired. Although experts are not sure what causes ocular migraines, they believe that spasms in the blood vessels, genetics, lifestyle and diet may be to blame.

Symptoms can be broken into two halves. Ocular symptoms include flashing lights, black spots and temporary blindness ranging from a few seconds to half an hour. Migraine symptoms consist of headaches ranging from moderate to intense pain, sometimes with a pulsating sensation. Additional symptoms include nausea, vomiting and heightened sensitivity to light, sound and temperature. Symptoms also tend to worsen after engaging in physical activity. It is important to keep in mind though that every case is unique and symptoms may vary.

There is no treatment for ocular migraines since they are relatively harmless and usually go away on their own. My doctor advised me to take an aspirin and to lie down in a dark room when I experience an ocular migraine.

If you think you may be experiencing ocular migraines, it is important to see your ophthalmologist or optometrist. Ocular migraines are not life-threatening, but the symptoms may be related to other health issues such as eye diseases or a detached retina which require immediate attention.

Scarlett Shillings
PBT Summer 2013 Intern

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