Eye Strain, Migraine & Aura

To depart a little from my usual rants about travel and Japan, today I will share what it’s like to suffer from eyesight issues and migraines. Sometimes one causes the other, sometimes they are each their own entity. Lucky me, I get both versions. Doctors can’t rightfully link the headaches to the eye problems, but I’m convinced there MUST be a connection.

I spent an otherwise lovely day in the park by the water with my best friend. The sun was intensely bright and I found myself ducking between the shade of tall trees wherever possible. Unfortunately, there were never enough trees to prevent squinting, shading my eyes with my forearm, even tugging my hoodie low so it might cover my peripheral vision. After a few hours of enduring, I’d just had it, and knew I’d be suffering later in the evening.


Waterfront Windmill Boat

Luckily, I had about three cups of coffee with dinner, otherwise I may have had a horrible end to my pleasant day. You see, caffeine sometimes helps ease my migraines. For those of you who don’t suffer from migraines specifically, you might not know that squinting in the bright sun can trigger them.

Waterfront Growth

I felt fine all evening, but as I headed home by subway, I was suddenly afflicted with what’s called Aura. Visual aura is hard to explain, but it is a dead giveaway sign that a migraine is on the way. Although aura doesn’t hurt, and I’ve gotten used to it to the point where I can almost ignore the symptoms, it can nevertheless be dangerous and debilitating.

Here’s how.

My subway ride home was about 10 minutes. While in the safety of a well-lit subway car, I was able to track my progression of blindness. You see, blindness or blind spots are a side effect of this annoying visual aura. If I remain calm, I can enjoy a little light show right inside my very own field of vision. This is fine when I’m sitting still in a safe environment.

And then I had to get out of the subway at my stop. I was already ruminating coping methods to get me between subway station and my home. I thought I’ll stall. I’ll walk slowly. I’ll use the flashlight on my smartphone to light the path once I reach the dark streets outside.

Recently because of my visual impairments, I’ve been having trouble with my night vision. The contrasts are too vast with the headlights of cars and the dimness of the surrounding areas. The dim areas become BLACK HOLES of doom. Even if I squint, I can’t see if there’s a pothole, an oncoming pedestrian, perhaps a stray cat in those darker areas. So add to that my aura, and I was scared to walk home. The trek is only about 7 minutes, but it was a 7-minute obstacle course. Oncoming pedestrians tended to pop out of nowhere, giving me a fright. I let myself be guided by sound to know a car had pulled up to the sidewalk and a passenger had opened their door in front of me.

Before leaving the subway station, I contacted my friend who had spent the day with me. Great. I’m having aura. Can you keep in touch with me until I can see again? I’m pretty blind right now and I need to walk home in the dark, I texted her, hoping she would make sense of my typos since I wasn’t able to see quite what I had typed. On each corner, I stopped under a street lamp to pause, blink my eyes to see the current damage, and check my friend’s texts. Okay. Checking in on you. Where are you now? she would ask.

As I reached the courtyard in front of my apartment, I let her know that the rainbow halos and strobing lights were subsiding. I texted her again once I was safely inside to report that I had regained my full vision.

It’s probably scarier than I made it sound. I’m used to this, but it’s never happened to me at night and outside. Sometimes it occurs when I’m in my living room, in PJs, safely away from any foreign objects or people who might get under foot. But never outside after dark.

What sucks is that once the aura passes, I’m on guard waiting for that elusive migraine, wondering when it will hammer itself across my skull. Tonight I only had a teeny weenie one which didn’t need to be medicated (thank you, caffeine, perhaps?). However, the weird cooling sensation and feeling of heaviness around my temples was annoying. For me, this is typical migraine-with-aura aftershock. I’m simply glad I’m home and didn’t need to endure a full-on, nasty migraine. I passed the recuperation time slogging through personal blogs about other people’s migraines, solutions, symptoms and found a really neat project that Excedrin created to show non migraine sufferers what a migraine really feels/looks like.

Do you think you have migraines? Watch this, and you might be surprised to learn they weren’t migraines at all. On the contrary, if you recognize your aura symptoms in the video, I feel your pain 😉

[edit: the video has gone offline, sadly]


3 thoughts on “Eye Strain, Migraine & Aura

  1. The visual aura and blindness, I know exactly what you mean, and you describe it so well! I get it too and it can be so scary. I’m worried it’ll happen when I’m driving, then what? Thank you for sharing the video, I had no idea something like that existed. I wish I could make everyone I know wear that machine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right? I’ve had it strike me while walking on a busy street downtown, near an area with a lot of construction. I was luckily with a friend, and I told her to just guide me to safety and a dim place I could sit, have a drink and wait for it to pass. She was scared, but I coached her, ‘It’s nothing serious. Just think of me as a blind person for the next 20 minutes. I’ll be back to normal soon. I’m not in any danger as long as you guide me’.

      Liked by 1 person

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