The Eyes Have It

I know I’ve mentioned it here, although not lately, that I have a thing called ocular migraines.  Many migraine headache sufferers report an “aura” prior to their headache, a warning symptom(s) that a headache is coming.  Many of these “auras” are visual — scotoma, scintillating scotoma, etc.   Some people, like me, get the aura without the headache.  If you have to have migraines, and you get a choice what kind to have, choose the kind I have.  I get maybe 10-15-20 minutes of visual disturbances, and that’s it.  No headache.  No pain.  Just these annoying visual symptoms.  There is a genetic component to migraines, and women are more likely than men to have migraines of any type.  I have female cousins on both sides who have full blown migraine attacks — and who know their triggers.   Me?  I got off dead easy.

My ocular migraines typically involve a scintillating scotoma in my left visual field.   It starts as a flickering point just left of center in the area of sharpest vision.  It’s something that happens in my brain, not my eye, and because it happens in my left visual cortex, it affects both eyes.  (Anatomical aside:  The optic nerve from each eye branches and half of it goes to each side of the visual cortex of your brain, so each eye transmits to both sides of the brain.  If you lose an eye, you lose your depth perception.  However, if the right visual cortex of your brain is damaged, it doesn’t take out the vision in the right eye, it takes out the right half of the vision in both eyes.  Because you still have some vision in both eyes,  your depth perception is preserved.)  The scintillating point expands into a “C” shape, with the “gap” oriented toward the right lower corner of my visual field.  The “C” moves diagonally up toward the left upper corner of my visual field, getting larger and larger as it moves, until it expands off the edge of  the visual field and goes away. It only affects my sharp vision for a minute or two, but it’s visually disruptive until it goes away.   If I get one while I’m driving, I pull off out of traffic as soon as I can safely do so, and wait them out.

The whole reason I brought this up is that on the whole I may go months and months without having one, or I may have two or three over the course of a week.  Yesterday, I had four, and one was atypical — it was just like the ones I always have except it was in my right visual field instead of the left.  I’ve had another typical one today already.

Now, some migraine triggers are dietary (MSG, artificial sweeteners, nitrates, etc. ).  I eat Chinese food with impunity (and chopsticks).  I eat lunch meat and hot dogs with impunity (and mayonnaise), so MSG and nitrates are not suspects. Although wine is a migraine trigger for one of my cousins,  I can and will drink wine when it’s offered, and it’s not a suspect.  Changes in hormone levels are not suspect either; I’ve been on estrodiol-only HRT for (literally) decades and my hormone levels stay constant.  I suspect that changes in weather may be one of my triggers — possibly rapid changes in barometric pressure and such like —  and the polar vortex has been wreaking havoc with the weather here lately.  We had some nice warm weather earlier in the week, then Wednesday, it got cold again, and was drippy, drizzly, mizzly and dreich.  It’s the first moisture we’ve had in over a month.

I don’t care for artificial sweeteners and rarely consume them.  Saccharin has an unplesant “wang-y” aftertaste that I don’t like.  I’m not real wild about any of the others, either.  I just don’t care for the way they taste.   My mom uses both Sweet’n’Low (saccharin) and Equal (aspartame).  She likes the taste (300-500 times sweeter than sugar) and finds nothing “off” about it.    My dad never cared for diet drinks, and it is very likely that I get my dislike of them from him.*  (His tea was never sweet enough unless about half an inch of sugar had settled out of it into the bottom of the glass.  Yep.  I’m daddy’s girl.)

But the standout atypical thing about yesterday, apart from my having four attacks, was that I had this “zero calorie” bottle drink I hadn’t had before.    I bought four bottles of the stuff, but I bought it for the bottles — nice substantial, washable, refillable,  17-oz plastic bottles**.  The drink  was carbonated, contained several of the vitamin B’s, and it had green tea extract.   I’ve got three more in the fridge.  I’m going to try another challenge Sunday when I know I’m going to be staying in all day.

In the meantime, I think I hear some spinach focaccia calling my name.  I’d better go see what it wants.

*Taste breaks down to chemistry and your ability to taste or not taste certain chemicals is inherited. 
**I hate buying bottled water and throwing all that plastic away.  It's stupid and irresponsible, and it supports those criminally-irresponsible environmental-toxic companies who make them.  Not only is it much more environmentally friendly to get a set of bottles and reuse them for months and months, it's cheaper in the long run.

Author: WOL

My burrow, "La Maison du Hibou Sous Terre" is located on the flatlands of West Texas where I live with my computer, my books, and a lot of yarn waiting to become something.

3 thoughts on “The Eyes Have It”

  1. Is there something you can take to mitigate the symptoms? Someone I knew who had migraine attacks during which she said she saw the world ‘like Micjky Mouse’, by which she meant that the visual world seemed distorted as in a Disney cartoon, was prescribed caffeine tablets. These seem to have calmed the symptoms.

    Taking sugar in tea is a habit I cannot understand. To me, putting sugar in tea sugar destroys it altogether and is a ridiculous behaviour. The only additive to tea that I will tolerate is a slice of lemon and then only if the tea is not of good quality, when the lemon helps disguise its defects.


  2. I read the links about the various conditions — quite interesting. Some years ago, I experienced flashing lights which turned out to be vitreous detachment: no problems with the retina. And then I had to live for a while with about a nickel-sized blurry spot right in the middle of my field of vision. It was highly irritating, but just as my good eye doc said, it disappeared after a while. I can’t remember how long it took, but I think it was about a month.

    After my cataract surgery and lens implants, I had to deal with floaters for a while: little black grain-of-pepper like things that bumped around. After about a year, they were nearly gone, too.

    I’m with you on the artificial sweeteners. I keep some Stevia around for a couple of friends who prefer that, but otherwise, I only use sugar. I don’t use it in tea or coffee, though. I’m a coffee-with-milk sort, and do the same for tea.


  3. I tracked down one of my main triggers a few months ago. In the past year or so I’ve been getting vertigo induced by migraine which is horrible as it means I’m in bed unable to move for several days, and I realised that it was caused by chocolate. So I’ve completely stopped eating chocolate. I still get mild migraines – a little heady for a few hours, or the aura (not just visual, sometimes just plain weird like part of the environment has changed and I can’t figure out what) – sometimes both symptoms together, sometimes separately, but I’m so glad I tracked down the cause of the really bad ones. I didn’t think I could, but I’ve discovered I can live without chocolate!

    But most migraines need (I think) more than one trigger, so you could have had a trigger one day then another trigger days later that was unrelated (like a suspect food one day and several days later a flicker-effect on TV or online). I am hypersensitive to flicker and fast-moving images, which is very difficult to avoid these days. Even being driven (I don’t drive) along the road with light through moving branches can cause that effect.

    I hope you find your trigger, it’s great being able to reduce or get rid of these damn things. I know occular migraines aren’t as bad as those with the pain, but they are still unpleasant and inconveniencing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: