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.