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An Undiagnosed Vision Problem Was Contributing to My Migraines

Woman working at laptop, struggling with migraine-triggering eyestrain when not wearing her glasses
Getty Images / fizkes

Most migraine headaches are not caused by eyestrain. But it's still worth getting an eye exam, writes Michelle Rivas.

A few key things defined my early 20s. I met my now husband. I completed a master’s degree. And I regularly experienced debilitating migraines.

Everyone I knew at the time was going out and enjoying life in Chicago. At the same time, I was stuck in a dark room, vomiting and taking over-the-counter migraine medications. My roommate popped in periodically to make sure I was still alive.

My migraine attacks didn’t happen often enough to be considered chronic, but they were frustrating! I canceled plans at the last minute. I took days off of work at the most inconvenient times. Bright lights bothered me. I felt stuck.

I couldn’t find a rhyme or reason for having migraine flare-ups so often. The dehydration also had an impact. Maybe my symptoms were related to stress and my diet? I tried every at-home remedy, but nothing seemed to make a difference.

I figured a migraine was just something you had to deal with. I just had to ride them out and hope for the best.

Getting help for my migraines

It wasn’t until migraine severely interfered with my job that I realized I needed help.

As I sat at my desk and lost vision in my left eye, my first thought was that I had a brain tumor. I panicked. I couldn’t read the left side of my spreadsheet. It happened almost instantly and was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I closed my eyes and tried to will it away.

“Don’t panic. There’s a reasonable explanation for this,” I thought to myself.

I put my hand over my left eye and texted my husband while squinting at my phone and furiously typing with one hand. “I think I’m going blind,” it read.

The aura, sensitivity to light, vomiting, and intense pain set in a few moments later. I knew then what had happened: It was a migraine. And the worst one I’d ever experienced.

I decided to see a doctor when I left work that day. I couldn’t keep letting the migraines win.

My primary care doctor couldn’t provide a lot of information. Sadly, migraines are relatively common among women and are linked to several causes.

Doctors concluded that my migraines were likely related to stress and eyestrain from the computer. I spent almost all of my day on the computer. And most people experience stress.

I started medication and ordered a pair of blue light-blocking glasses to help with the computer strain. It worked for a while.

Realizing my eyes might be the problem

A few years later, I was driving to my parents’ house when I realized that I couldn’t read the street signs in their neighborhood. The signs were small. But I couldn’t remember it being an issue before.

Then I remembered THE migraine. Was this another symptom?

I took some over-the-counter migraine medication and had a pleasant visit with my family. On the drive home, it was dark, and every red light had an aura around it. I was getting another migraine. It was in full swing by the time I made it home.

Was it my vision? Or just the nature of migraine? They always impacted my sight. But my doctor never discussed vision as a possible cause for my migraines.

I visited the optometrist a few days later and had my first comprehensive vision exam. I’d only ever taken reading tests or vision exams for sports physicals in elementary school.

Turns out I needed glasses for astigmatism. This common condition prevents light from focusing on your retina properly. It makes your vision fuzzy and can lead to headaches.

It seemed like such a simple solution to a problem that had plagued me for years. No wonder bright lights, computer screens, and low lighting bothered my eyes. My eyes were straining every moment!

A surprise solution to my migraines

I’ve now been wearing glasses for a year. I haven’t had a migraine since.

I still focus on my former migraine prevention tools like staying hydrated, ensuring a balanced diet, doing yoga to de-stress, and getting adequate sleep. But now, migraines are no longer a weekly occurrence. I feel like I got my life back!

It’s important to note that most migraine headaches are not caused by eyestrain. But it’s still a good idea to get your eyes checked if you suffer from regular migraines. It could be life-changing!

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen. 

NPS-ALL-NP-00843 MARCH 2023

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