Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Relationship Between My Eyes and My Migraines

Lately I've been thinking about the relationship between my eye issues and my migraines. 

I started getting migraines when I was in 3rd grade. Light sensitivity has always been present with all of my migraines but, over the years, I also found myself gravitating toward low light even when I was feeling fine. I didn't even know that was unusual until I was in my mid-20s. 

I remember the exact moment it happened. My grandparents had just moved to Minnesota so we lived right by each other for the first time since I was a baby. My sister and I just happened to show up at the same time to visit with our grandma, while grandpa was away. The three of us were chatting and laughing - it was a cloudy day, the curtains were drawn and only one dim lamp was on - when our mom showed up to visit too. The first thing she did when she arrived was start turning on lights and asking us why we were sitting in the dark. 

The thing is, it never occurred to any of us that we were sitting in the dark. See all three of us had already had spent many years living with episodic migraines. While our mom has had a migraine, that's really about all she has had. She doesn't get migraines and isn't bothered by light. 

For whatever reason, migraines seem to have a lasting impact on how our eyes respond to light, but light sensitivity isn't the only thing that has happened to my eyes as a result of my migraines. 

When I was in my early 20s I started having eye pain and sought out an optometrist for the first time in my life. The doc said my eyes were strong and my eye sight was great but that I had Convergence Inefficiencies. Basically that just means when I'm not trying to look at something specific each of my eyes just relax and look forward. Any time I want to I can make them come together and focus on stuff but it's work. The more time I spend focusing on stuff the more stress it puts on my eyes, resulting in pain. 

Now, I don't know if this is a result of my migraines or if it has contributed to them in some way but my theory is that I started doing this as a way to cope with the well lit world around me. When my eyes relax and go their own way, I can see shapes, colors and movements - basically I get the visual gist of what's going on around me but I don't see any one thing. This relaxed state takes some of the pressure off my eyes and keeps my brain from spending much energy process visual information.

During all stages of a migraine, this issue becomes more pronounced. I can see but I don't really see or process much of anything. Focusing on stuff just becomes so painful and overwhelming that my eyes fight back when I try to. I can still do it for very short periods of time but it's a lot of work and only causes more pain. Even as I'm typing now my eyes are relaxed and not really looking at anything. I'll pull them together to proof read at the end but otherwise I don't really need to focus. 

Whatever the cause, whatever the nature of the relationship between migraines and the eyes, there is no doubt the severity of my eye issues have compounded in the years since my migraines went chronic. 

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