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HeadWay, Issue #117 -- Retinal Migraine - a medical emergency?
April 21, 2014

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In this issue:

Retinal Migraine - a medical emergency?

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Say what?!  Retinal Artery

Retinal Migraine - a medical emergency?

Retinal migraine is a commonly misunderstood diagnosis.  Here are some quick ways to figure out if you might have this type of migraine with aura.

First, retinal migraine has some things in common with other types of migraine with aura.  The most important thing - the aura!  That is, some kind of sensory disturbance that usually precedes the headache phase of the attack.  Now there are many types of aura, including visual aura, muscle weakness, and speech troubles.  So let's take a closer look at retinal migraine itself.

You might have retinal migraine if...

  1. You're experiencing partial/complete vision loss in one eye, including areas of blindness or seeing patterns and flashes.
  2. The aura spreads gradually over 5 minutes or less
  3. The symptoms are temporary but have repeated more than once.

You probably don't have retinal migraine if...

  1. You have a visual disturbance in both eyes.  Retinal migraine symptoms only show up in one eye.
  2. Your partial loss of sight are from a stroke.
  3. The loss of vision or visual disturbances don't go away after about an hour.
  4. You're experiencing eye pain related to the aura
  5. No headache follows within an hour.  Although it is possible to have retinal migraine without headache, it is extremely rare and very difficult to diagnose.
  6. An eye exam shows blockage of the retinal artery.  Vision loss for this cause is treated with certain medications and in some cases surgery.
It's very helpful to see a doctor during those minutes of vision loss, if possible.  If not, try to draw what you're seeing, and bring the drawing to the doctor.

Your doctor may perform an eye exam, and ask you about your medical history and family medical history.  He'll also ask about other symptoms you may be experiencing.

Retinal migraine is actually relatively rare, but migraine with aura (a more general diagnosis) is not.  Your main concern, if you're experiencing retinal migraine symptoms, will be to rule out other possible causes of visual problems.  It's very important with these symptoms to see a doctor immediately.  The sooner you can get treatment for some conditions, the better chance you have to avoid permanent vision loss.  Although retinal migraine is not a "medical emergency", the symptoms may indicate an emergency.

However, once you're doctor has ruled out other conditions, many common migraine treatments may help alleviate retinal migraine symptoms.

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Did you know that there are discussions going on on Facebook and Twitter that you won't see if you only read this newsletter or visit the websites?  News stories, old posts, new discussions and ideas - these are all to be found in the social web.  Check it out now - Headache and Migraine News on Twitter --- Headache and Migraine News on Facebook

Say what?!  Retinal Artery

The retinal artery is one of the two main sources of blood flow for the retina in the eye.  Blockage in a part of the retinal artery may only affect a part of your vision, depending on where the blockage is (for example, in the central retinal artery or one of its branches).  If you're experiencing vision loss, even if only for a few seconds, it's critical to see an eye doctor right away.  For more information, read Retinal Artery Occlusions

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