Top 75 Migraine and Headache Questions, #62

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  • Full Question:
    I seem to have a unique problem. I do not suffer from headaches or migraines, but visual disturbances that have been diagnosed as "ocular migraines." My ophthalmologist calls the episodes I have been experiencing, "photopsia." However, I can trigger it at will. If I go from a brightly lit environment to very dark, I will see flashing lights like a strobe light. It I look at a light source like my lit watch, it subsides. I see a lot of dancing lights when there is contrasting dark and light. And recently, I was in a dark room and looked at a very dim light source it became brighter, and brighter. When I shut my eyes, it went away. This all started about 2 years ago, and has become more prominent. Also, bright light seems SO bright now. All eye exams, including visual field tests, are normal.
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    I am scheduled for an MRI of the brain next week to put my mind at ease. Could this still be classified as "ocular migraine?" I can live with this, if I can understand it. Thank you, Stephanie.


    Answer:

    Dear Stephanie;


    The problem with the term "ocular Migraines" is that it's not a standard diagnosis as outlined in the International Headache Society's International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd Edition, which is pretty much accepted as the standard. Thus, it's used differently by different people. It's been our experience that when people write to us about ocular Migraines as you describe, then get to a doctor who has more experience in treating Migraine, it turns out that they actually have Migraine with aura, but are not experiencing the headache phase. The descriptive term most often used for that is acephalgic Migraine.


    It's impossible for us to know via the Internet if that's what you're experiencing. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get to a neurologist or Migraine specialist to confirm your diagnosis and recommend treatment.


    Good luck,
    John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert



    About Ask the Clinician:

    Dr. Krusz is a recognized expert in the fields of headache and migraine treatment and pain treatment. Each week, he and Lead Expert Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and Migraines. You can read more about Dr. Krusz or more about Teri Robert. If you have a question for this section of our site, please click HERE. Accepted questions will be answered by publishing the answers here. No questions will be answered privately.


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Published On: April 07, 2007