6 Causes of Ocular Migraines

If you’ve ever suffered from one, then you already know that ocular migraines can be debilitating painful. Unfortunately, not too much about the phenomenon is understood by the medical community and a number of theories are floating around as to what can cause them. One thing that makes it difficult to pin down the possible causes of ocular migraines is that so many people experience them differently. For some people, their ocular migraines aren’t actually accompanied by the physical pain of traditional migraines, but instead only involve a loss of vision. To make matters more confusing for researchers, some people only experience issues in one eye when they are experiencing an ocular migraine, while others can completely lose vision in both eyes at once. While these variables obscure overall research into the field, they can provide useful insight on an individual level. Let’s go over some of the most common causes of ocular migraines and try to delve into what kind of changes you can make to prevent them. Keep in mind while reading each of these causes if you can personally link your ocular migraines to any of these in particular, and also what kind of symptoms you normally get when you suffer from an ocular migraine.

1. Bright Lights

What is widely considered the most common cause of ocular migraines is exposure to very bright lights. In most cases, people report that incandescent lights can be acceptable, but any other light source such as fluorescent lights or the sun is much harsher and more likely to trigger a migraine. A migraine triggered by bright light is also usually accompanied by sensitivity to light during the headache, forcing some people to have to literally hide in a dark room until their migraine subsides. The mechanism of this pain was not understood until a very recent 2010 study. Researchers at Harvard working with staff from the University of Utah found that not only does the inside of the eye contain photoreceptive cells that can make an image and send it to the brain, but there are also clusters of highly photosensitive cells that do not send ocular information to the brain, but instead send pain signals. This was likely an evolutionary trait that prevented our ancestors from looking into bright lights and blinding themselves, but the result is that sometimes these cells get a little carried away. It’s thought that these pain cells in the eye can get themselves either locked into an “always on” accidentally or are somehow causing a restriction in the blood vessels of the eye to protect them from damage when too much light is sensed. Either way, the result is that certain lights can trigger ocular migraines in some people.