What Is a Blurry Vision Headache?
Pain in any region of the head is called a headache. Nearly everyone has experienced a headache; some of us have had it several times. If a headache is accompanied by blurred vision or double vision, then it is called a blurry vision headache.
It is frightening to experience a headache that spreads from your head to your eyes, especially when it happens for the first time. It can affect one or both eyes and it can show other optical symptoms as well. Many possible conditions can cause a headache with blurred vision, with migraines being the most common cause of all.
Types of Headaches That Can Cause Optical Symptoms
The typical headache is unlikely to causes vision issues, but there are indeed types of headaches that do.
A migraine is a common primary headache disorder. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 ranked it as the third most prevalent disorder in the world. It is also ranked as the seventh most disabling disease in the world and is three times more common in women than in men. However, in children, migraines are slightly more common in males. Migraines typically occur from childhood to middle age. Its frequency decreases during pregnancy or with advancing age.
About 20% of migraine sufferers have headache attacks with aura. Aura is any neurological disturbance that appears shortly before or during the migraine headaches. The neurological symptoms of migraine with aura usually develop over five to 20 minutes and last for less than an hour.
Migraines that cause visual symptoms like halos, zigzag lines, blind spots, sparkles or flashing lights, are defined as ocular migraine or migraine with aura. Neurologists believe that aura is caused by hyper-excited nerves in the brain which are activated in the visual processing areas of the brain before the onset of migraine pain. Also, genetics play an important role, as 70% of the migraine problems are hereditary.
The symptoms include:
- A blind spot in the field of sight that spreads to cover up to half of the visual field
- Depression, irritability, fatigue and sluggishness
- Halos, sparkles or flashing lights, tunnel vision, temporary blindness or temporary flashes of stars
- Slurring of speech
- Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
- Watery eyes, running nose or congestion
- Throbbing or pulsating pain, often beginning around the eye and temple, spreading to the back of the head
- Nausea and vomiting
Use the POUND method to identify migraine pain:
- P: pulsating pain
- O: one-day duration of severe untreated attacks
- U: unilateral or one-sided pain
- N: nausea and vomiting
- D: disabling intensity
Cluster headaches are uncommon but are very severe and are strictly unilateral headaches. They are five times more common in males than in females. Although they can affect anyone, they are more common in middle-aged males with a history of smoking.
The term cluster is used because the headaches come in clusters or bouts, occurring one to eight times per day. Attacks last for weeks or months separated by remission periods, usually lasting months or years.
A cluster headache comes on quickly, sometimes with aura or blurring, and strikes on one side of the head. The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but patterns suggest an abnormality in the hypothalamus as being the cause.
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Symptoms of cluster headaches include:
- Excruciating pain on one side of the head
- Eye on the painful side is watery, red and droopy
- Forehead or facial sweating on the affected side
- Runny nose and congestion on the affected side
- Nausea and sensitivity to light
Eye Strain Headache
Eye strain is a common condition nowadays, all thanks to the digital era of screen addiction. According to The Vision Council, 80% of American adults spend more than two hours per day with their eyes fixed on any digital device and about 59% of people report experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain.
Intense use, like prolonged exposure to digital devices or driving long distances, disrupts the eye’s ability to focus and often leads to eye muscle strain.
Eye strain headache symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
- Sore neck or shoulders
- Sore or itchy eyes
- Sensitivity to light
Treatment and Prevention Methods for Headaches
The treatment will focus on the cause of your headache and blurry vision. Treatment options may include:
- Aspirin, as this is the most commonly prescribed drug for treating a headache
- Migraine prevention medications
- Calcium channel blockers for cluster headaches
Having experienced a blurry vision headache before makes you to look for ways to prevent it from happening again. Luckily, there are many ways to help you achieve it such as:
- Exercising or doing yoga regularly. A simple exercise like a brisk walk for 30 minutes, three times a week is also sufficient.
- Meditation and relaxation techniques
- Avoiding digital eye strain by cutting down your screen time
- Coping with anxiety and depression. Maintaining mental health is important to prevent its recurrence.
- Not overusing pain medications, as they might aggravate the condition
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with optimal sleep, diet and exercise
When to See A Doctor
Sometimes, headaches can be the warning signs of a bigger medical problem. Low blood sugar, hypertension, stroke and carbon monoxide poisoning are often known to cause initial symptoms like blurry vision headaches.
Hence, it is necessary to seek emergency medical care if you experience:
- Headaches with fever or a stiff neck
- Loss of consciousness or confusion
- Facial numbness or paralysis
- Headaches along with tingling or pain in the eyes or ears
- Persistent headache following a blow or injury to the head
- Sudden headache which feels like a blow to the head
- Headache that interferes with activities like walking and speaking
- Drooping of eyelids or lips
- National Headache Foundation (Aura)
- Medical News Today (Ocular migraine: Everything you need to know)
- American Migraine Foundation (Understanding Ocular Migraine)
- NCBI (A controlled study of visual symptoms and eye strain factors in chronic headache.)
- American Headache Society (Aura With Headache)
- International Headache Society (The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition)
- The Vision Council (Digital Eye Strain)
- Harvard Health Publishing (Headache: When to worry, what to do)
- The Migraine Trust (Managing your migraine)