Thursday, May 2, 2019

WTH is that zig zag in my vision?!

Some of you said, "I know, I know" because you have had an ocular migraine before.  I'm having one as I type which means I will need to double proofread this afterward since 50% of my field of vision is unavailable to me right now.  (I have an ocular migraine with an aura, but I'll get to that.)

You may have heard of regular migraines which are usually blinding pain, sensitivity to light and/or sound and/or nausea and vomiting.   I typically get hormone related ones every 3-6 months.  That started happening after 40...yay.  Here's some of what I have been able to find on the internet about ocular migraines.   Just a reminder, I'm not a doctor, and nothing in this should be construed as medical advice.  Consult your physician.  According to the American Migraine Foundation, it is a visual disturbance that can present with vision loss, blind spots, zigzags, seeing stars and/or flashing lights.  It can accompany a traditional migraine but often times doesn't.  There are different types of ocular migraines including migraine with aura which are the ones with the flashing lights, zigzags and blind spots.  It can be a warning sign for some that a traditional migraine is looming.  It is usually over in 30 minutes but in 20% of the population can last over an hour.  Retinal migraine is only in one eye during the headache phase of a migraine.  That one is a little more serious and has decreased vision, twinkling lights, and temporary blindness.  You need to call a doctor if you're having those symptoms because irreversible vision loss can occur with that type.

They don't specifically know what causes them, but it's thought to be an electrical short circuit of sorts.  This abnormal activity spreads and is responsible for the movement or growing appearance of the visual disturbances.  Harsh lighting and your computer/phone screens can be triggers or any eye strain including driving.  If you get ocular migraines, talk to your eye doctor about potential options.

Here's my experience with them.  I got my first one in 1999 when I was under pretty intense stress and doing data entry under a deadline.  I was squinting at numbers and columns, fingers flying, mind racing and suddenly in the middle of my vision was a flashing, jagged blob like this:

I rubbed my eyes and closed them for a few seconds, and when I opened them, it was getting larger and taking away more field of vision with it.  It turned from a blob into a zig-zag, flashing line as shown below and the two lines on either side represent the amount of field of vision taken with it.

You can imagine when I was going through this for the first time, I started freaking out.  I didn't know if I was having a stroke or what the hell was going on.  I sat there panicking for a few minutes as this monster was "eating my vision" for lack of a better term.  I called my supervisor who was more like a mother figure to me and told her what was happening.  She came over to my desk and asked if I usually got migraines.  I told her from time to time, but I'd never had this before.  She said her daughter in law would get those and they were usually a precursor to a migraine and I should probably go home.  If she'd stop to think about this for a minute, putting me behind a 3000 lb machine to drive 5 miles with 40% of my vision gone was probably not the best suggestion.  Me, being freaked out, thought it sounded like a good idea.  *facepalm*

By the time I left, the field of vision was worse, much like this:

Not only was that zig zaggy and flashing but also moving in waves which made me very nauseous.  It was one of the scariest rides home ever.  I went home and laid down for a few hours and relieved that it passed within 45 minutes from when it started.  Basically, I should've just gone to the conference room and laid down because in the time it took me to get home, the visual part was gone.  I did have a headache afterward but not a migraine.  I looked it up later and read about ocular migraines and didn't think much about it again.

I do tend to get them every 3-5 years.  It's much more comforting to know what they are and that they'll pass.  The first thing I do when I see one coming on is close one eye and the other and if I see the same disturbance, I know it's the aura and nothing to freak out about.  (If it's in one eye, call the eye doctor immediately.)  I'm past the worst of my current one.  The visual disturbance and nausea are gone but a headache has moved in, but it honestly feels more like I need a good neck and shoulder massage than related to this.  Actually, now that I think about it, it's been 3 months since my last hormonal migraine, so I'm actually right on schedule.  Sh*t.  I think that might've been the first one that's ever been a precursor to a regular migraine for me.  Plot twist!

Anyone else ever had an ocular migraine?

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  1. I ran across this on Facebook this morning....after I was 15 minutes late for work due to an occular migraine. I get them about once a month- about 1/2 the time ending up with a headache or migraine. The first time was terrifying though- I thought for sure I was either going blind or having a stroke. Ugh. I never knew about the one eye thing. I got scared when I read that, but then followed up that the aura can appear to be on one side of your field of vision, but close your eyes to tell if its occular or retinal. If you still see the disturbance with your eyes closed, its coming from your brain, not your eyes (retina).

  2. I have been having these for many years. Loved your explanation and accompanying visuals. I was nodding to every one of them. I don't get headaches usually but the visual thing is awful. Seems like I get them less often now that I'm retired, and I have noted in the past they seem to come in spurts, like several in a row over a couple days, then none for a very long time. I've also noticed they seem to come in times of high stress. Thanks for the really good explanation. I had read about them a while back (back when I started getting them there was no Internet to look this stuff up on), and realized it was probably harmless, just very annoying.


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