migraines

  • Ocular Migraines-Eye Migraines

    As par for the course my life takes, I’ve often had to be the recipient of a symptom or condition to truly understand its causes, effects and solutions — providing me with a deeper understanding of what my patients’ experience. Unfortunately, this investigative report came about because I recently experienced a very troubling visual disturbance and dull headache over one eye and immediately panicked thinking it was a detached retina again — one of the most debilitating conditions I’ve been through!

    I was consulting with a patient when suddenly I began to see light flashes as if looking through shattered glass. I had a dull headache over my right eye that morning but discounted it as having been on the computer too many hours the day before. As the symptoms worsened, I called my eye doctor and rushed to her office, fearing the worse. Upon examination, she assured me I had all the symptoms of an ocular migraine; to which I responded, “What in the heck is that?” That said, most any other diagnosis was welcome other than the dreaded detached retina with its harrowing recovery.

    The eye doctor did see a clouding of the lens, often forming after cataract surgery; which I had a few years back. The following information is the result of my research to assist you in better understanding, and dealing with, this type of ocular occurrence should you experience it. As always, if you have any unusual eye symptoms do not “doctor yourself” — see an eye care physician immediately

    Historical Perspective
    Ophthalmic (eye) migraines are quite common and often painless, although the solo term “migraine” usually brings to mind a severe type of headache. As a child, I experienced debilitating migraines; years later we discovered these were brought on by a famous brand of soup I consumed several times a week that contained significant amounts of MSG. This ocular migraine is completely different; I was fortunate that the pain in this recent situation was a dull ache, not the typical head-splitting migraine pain.

    With eye-related migraines, visual disturbances with or without headache pain also can accompany migraine processes thought to be related to changes in blood flow in the brain. These visual problems associated with migraines technically are known as ophthalmic migraines, but are much more commonly (though incorrectly) called ocular migraines. Because most laypeople understand the term better, this article refers to the condition as “ocular migraine.”

    Migraines can be produced by the body’s neurological responses to certain triggers such as hormonal changes, flashing lights or chemicals in foods or medications. One result of these triggers may be an intense headache that, if untreated, can last for hours or even days.

    During migraine processes, changes also may take place in blood flow to the area of the brain responsible for vision (visual cortex or occipital lobe). Resulting ophthalmic or ocular migraines commonly produce visual symptoms even without a headache.

    Ocular Migraine Symptoms
    People with ocular migraines can have a variety of visual symptoms. Typically you will see a small, enlarging blind spot (scotoma) in your central vision with bright, flickering lights (scintillations) or a shimmering zigzag line (metamorphopsia) inside the blind spot. The blind spot usually enlarges and may move across your field of vision. This entire migraine phenomenon may end in only a few minutes, but usually lasts as long as about 20–30 minutes; the headache can last for days, even with dull non-debilitating pain.

    Met·a·mor·phop·si·a — a visual disorder in which images appear distorted in various ways; usually a defect in vision in which objects are seen as distorted in shape, which results from disease of the retina or imperfection of the media.

    An anomaly of visual perception in which objects appear distorted in shape or of different size or in a different location than the actual object. It may be due to a displacement of the visual receptors as a result of inflammation, tumor or retinal detachment, it can be of central origin (e.g. migraine, drug intoxication, and neurosis or brain injury).

    It is also caused by the accumulation of subretinal fluid in the macula resulting in metamorphopsia and blurring of vision.

    Generally, ocular migraines are considered harmless, usually painless, cause no permanent visual or brain damage and do not require treatment. That said, always consult your eye doctor when you have unusual vision symptoms, because it is possible that you have another condition requiring treatment, such as a detached retina, which should be checked out immediately.

    Why we get ocular migraines?

    There are three prevalent causes:

    • Overtiredness — i.e. too much computer work and/or reading, not enough rest;
    • After cataract surgery if a cloudy substance forms behind the lens; putting pressure on the optic nerves as well as clouding the field of vision (this is what occurred in my case);
    • Migraines — more serious and more painful localized headaches often triggered by specific causes such as toxic food ingredients, specifically MSG, nitrates and sulfites.

    The cause of the ocular migraine is thought to begin with arteries in the brain which spasm, precipitated by stress, hormonal fluctuations, certain medications, foods containing tyramine or phenylalanine (e.g., cheese, chocolate), fatigue, post cataract surgery and alcohol. The result is reduction in blood flow in that artery, followed by blood vessel dilation over-filling those vessels, causing the throbbing or “pounding” headache.

    What to do for an Ocular Migraine
    Unfortunately, a visit to the eye doctor may produce few answers in terms of how to treat or prevent ocular migraines. This is because processes that trigger ophthalmic migraines are poorly understood.

    The vision symptoms accompanying painless ocular migraines are not related directly to the eyes. Instead, these visual symptoms occur as a result of the migraine “activity” in the visual cortex of the brain located in the back of the skull. As described above, your vision and visual acuity will be affected significantly during an ophthalmic migraine attack or episode.

    If sharp vision is essential for your safety, then you should stop what you are doing immediately. If you are driving, pull over until the ocular migraine passes and your vision has cleared.

    Stay still until the ocular migraine resolves. If you have concerns about unusual or lingering vision symptoms, visit your eye doctor or physician for a checkup. Normally, ophthalmic migraines do not require treatment.

    The Way I See It…

    Relieving an Ocular Migraine, Naturally

    • Apply cold compresses to reduce swelling and relieve headache.

    • As with typical migraine headaches, it may help to close eyes, remove light sources or retire to a darkened room, reduce or remove other stimuli, and relax in a prone position for a period of time.

    • Hydrate well and drink water at roomtemperature.

    • Use an over-the-counter homeopathic lubricating eye drop without added chemicals such as Similasan for computer eyes, available at health food stores. It is formulated to stimulate the eye’s natural ability to relieve eyestrain due to intense computer work, TV, reading, writing or night driving. The homeopathic complex with its active ingredients provides relief without known side effects or drug interactions and does not cause a rebound effect.

    • I take a supplement that encourages blood flow — a complex that provides a plant-based formula for smoother blood flow, stronger blood vessel walls, and pacifies inflammatory responses. I have taken 2 twice a day since my much written about accident and the subsequent blood clots; it keeps my blood clotting time in the healthy range and provides overall support for blood flow. The formula I use is a plant-based systemic enzyme formula containing nattokinase, the proteolytic enzyme bromelain and papain, known to effectively rebalance the body’s inflammatory response. The complex I use also contains rutin to strengthen capillaries and other connective tissue, and white willow bark, which is often called “nature’s aspirin.”

    • Use an herbal complex known to assist with inflammation as well as blood flow. In my practice I use a proprietary herbal liquid complex of Curcuma (turmeric) and Bupleurum root (Chai Hu). These two ancient herbs work synergistically as potent anti-inflammatory agents and have been proved in experimental models. Even more potent than its volatile oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, called curcumin — the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity. Bupleurum is credited for invigorating the circulatory system and blood vessel strength. Together these two herbs in a tincture make up an extraordinary complex to assist with any circulatory and inflammatory disorders; especially those related to the eyes. I take 20 drops in a little bit of water twice a day, anytime — an easy, healthy, inexpensive way to support overall circulatory health and, of course, the windows to our souls, our eyes.

  • The Hidden Causes Behind Hormonal Imbalances

    The Hidden Causes Behind Hormonal Imbalances Sherrill Sellman

    Millions of women each year seek relief for hormonal issues, including hot flashes, night sweats, hormonal migraines, PMS, ovarian cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, fibrocystic breasts, weight gain, foggy thinking, and heavy bleeding. These symptoms are lumped together into the hormonal imbalance pigeonhole. In the case of menopause, HRT or Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy is the conventional cure. For menstruating women, oral contraceptives are most often prescribed.

    When resolving hormonal problems, women are led to believe all that is required is tweaking their hormonal levels or, in the case of oral contraceptives, a complete shutting down of ovarian function. However, hormonal imbalances, rather than merely aberrations of a wayward reproductive system, are, in fact, symptoms of deeper root cause issues. For long term hormonal balance and optimal health, understanding and addressing these deep problems is a critical piece of the hormone puzzle!

    The Adrenals and Hormones
    The adrenals are involved in manufacturing numerous hormones; blood sugar regulation; the regulation of the body's minerals; modulating the immune system; producing and maintaining the body's energy levels in conjunction with the thyroid; and producing stress-monitoring hormones. The adrenals, considered to be the body's shock absorbers, are the core of the endocrine stress response system. Two of the most important hormones produced by the adrenals, adrenaline and cortisol, are responsible for the fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline deals primarily with short-term stress while cortisol is produced as a result of both acute and long-term stress.

    Prolonged stress, whether as a result of emotional, environmental or physical causes, is disastrous for the adrenals. Initially, it results in chronically elevated cortisol levels, resulting in weight gain (especially around the midsection), blood sugar imbalances, thinning skin, muscle wasting, memory loss, high blood pressure, dizziness, hot flashes, night sweats, excessive facial hair, and other masculinizing tendencies.

    Overworked adrenals eventually crash, leading to adrenal exhaustion, where the body is unable to maintain adequate adrenal hormone production. Symptoms of overtaxed adrenals include extreme fatigue (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), irritability, inability to concentrate, frustration, insomnia, addictions to either sweet or salty foods, allergies, nervousness, depression, anxiety, PMS, sensitivity to cold, diabetes and headaches. Chronic low blood pressure can be a key symptom of seriously exhausted adrenal glands.

    Since the adrenals produce about 35 percent of premenopausal female hormones and almost 50 percent of postmenopausal hormones, compromised adrenal function directly impacts hormonal balance.

    Progesterone is the primary raw material for producing cortisol. When the glands are in overdrive, the body will divert progesterone to the adrenals to support cortisol production. With reduced progesterone, the body may experience estrogen dominance, i.e., PMS, hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, fibroids, heavy bleeding, breast tenderness, weight gain, etc. Excessive cortisol also blocks progesterone receptors, further contributing to low progesterone. These two imbalances are the primary reasons why adrenal exhaustion leads to estrogen dominance.

    Restoring adrenal function is a pre-requisite for restoring and maintaining hormonal balance. Nutrients that have special importance to the adrenals are the B vitamins (especially B5), vitamin C, proteins, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium, plant enzymes, adaptagenic herbs, adrenal extracts and the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine. Rest is essential to rejuvenate the adrenals. Individuals who suspect adrenal exhaustion can determine whether the body is producing healthy levels of adrenal hormones through proper testing. Cortisol levels can be measured with a saliva test that collects at least four samples over 24 hours.

    The Thyroid and Hormones
    Overtaxed adrenals can lead to hypothyroidism, which has a direct effect on women's hormonal health. By age 50, one in every twelve women has a significant degree of hypothyroidism. By age 60, it is one woman out of every six.

    The thyroid, which regulates metabolism, may tune down its hormonal activity in an attempt to reverse adrenal overdrive. Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, heavy bleeding, fibrocystic breast disease, depression, PMS, migraines, lack of concentration, cold hands and feet, menopausal symptoms, miscarriage and infertility.

    Birth control pills and estrogen increase thyroid-binding proteins in the bloodstream. This means that thyroid blood test results may be unreliable. Even though they may show normal thyroid hormone levels in the blood, there may be insufficient thyroid hormone in the tissues.

    Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis activation due to stress causes decreased production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and blocks inactive thyroxin conversion to the biologically active triiodothyronine (T3), which has the greatest effect on the body.

    Effective natural approaches help in regulating the thyroid. Natural progesterone balances the thyroid-inhibiting effect of estrogen dominance, as does supplementation with thyroid glandular extracts, enzyme therapy, minerals (Iodoral, selenium and magnesium), vitamins and herbals.

    The Candida-Hormone Connection
    A serious digestive concern is the yeast-fungal infection known as candidiasis. Approximately 75 percent of women suffer from at least one yeast infection during their lives. This toxic yeast overgrowth is caused by eating large amounts of sugar and/or prolonged or repeated use of antibiotics, birth control pills, estrogen therapy, and cortisone.

    Candida produces 79 different toxins known to wreak havoc with the immune system. A long list of potential symptoms associated with Candida overgrowth include depression, anxiety attacks, mood swings, lack of concentration, drowsiness, poor memory, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, bloating, constipation, bladder infections, menstrual cramps, vaginal itching, muscle and joint swelling, pain, hypothyroidism, and skin problems.

    However, it is rarely understood that Candida also contributes to hormonal problems. A Candida waste product produces a false estrogen, which tricks the body into thinking it has produced adequate levels, signaling a reduction of its own estrogen. Similar messages can also be sent to the thyroid, reducing thyroxin production and initiating or worsening a hypothyroid problem.

    Elevated estrogen levels also increase vaginal candidiasis incidence. Estrogen will literally feed Candida growth, which is why birth control pills and estrogen replacement therapy put women at a greater risk of developing Candida. The botanicals pau d'arco, oregano oil and olive leaf extract can be used along with a sugar-free and low carb diet to reduce the effect of this harmful yeast overgrowth. Probiotics are another key player to re-establish the beneficial bacterial in the colon.

    Get Hormonally Balanced by Getting Healthy It is commonly believed that conditions of hormonal imbalance somehow just happen to us. For some reason, our culture has taught us that when diagnosed with a hormonal issue such as PMS, endometriosis, fibroids, hot flashes or night sweats, the answer lies in a pharmaceutical intervention such as some form of contraceptives or some variation of hormone supplementation with HRT or Bioidentical Hormone Replacement.

    If we really want to regain hormonal harmony, it is vitally important that we understand that all hormonal problems are symptomatic of underlying dysfunctions occurring in our body. Learning to understand the message our body is trying to give us, will direct us to the real source of the problem so permanent healing can occur.

    All hormonal imbalances are a message that our body is out of balance. A big piece for resolving hormonal issues requires understanding the significant role of ensuring the health of our adrenals, thyroid and colon. Getting healthy is the key to getting our hormones back on track!