Headaches are among the most common COVID-19 symptom. Some studies have reported headaches in as many as
Typically, people describe COVID-19 headaches as either like a migraine episode, or like a tightening on the sides of their head.
The term “ocular migraine” has been used to describe two conditions. It can refer to retinal migraine, which causes brief vision loss in one eye accompanied by a headache, or it can refer to migraine with aura, which causes visual disturbances.
In this article, we’ll examine the difference between these two types of migraine and look at the link between ocular migraine and COVID-19.
Retinal migraine is a condition that causes partial or full vision loss in one eye and a headache within
The reason why these migraine episodes develop is controversial. Some researchers point to a possibility that a narrowing of the retinal or ciliary arteries causes them. Other researchers suggest electrical changes in the neurons of the retina cause them.
Partial or total vision loss typically lasts 10 to 20 minutes before returning to normal. Your vision may also become blurry or dim. You may experience flashes or mosaic patterns of light.
As of now, there’s no research connecting this specific type of migraine to COVID-19.
Migraine aura with visual disturbance
Migraine is a neurological condition that often causes intense headaches. Migraine tends to run in families.
Usually, people who have migraine with aura don’t experience an aura with all of their migraine episodes, just with some of them.
An aura is a temporary visual, auditory, motor, or other sensory change. Visual disturbances can include:
- seeing a blind spot
- seeing flashes of light
- vision loss
- kaleidoscope vision
Among people who experience an aura, about
Some people with a previous history of migraine report worsening migraine episodes during COVID-19. Some people without a history of migraine report experiencing migraine-like headaches.
Before they developed COVID-19, only 12 of the study participants had previously experienced migraine episodes.
According to a
People who develop COVID-19 sometimes develop symptoms affecting their eyes. A
The most common eye symptoms were:
- dry eyes or foreign body sensation
- eye pain
Researchers are still trying to figure out how the virus that causes COVID-19 interacts with our nervous system. Some people with a history of migraine report an increased frequency or intensity of migraine episodes during COVID-19.
In two of the people, migraine with aura was the initial symptom of COVID-19. The third person developed visual auras at the same time as other COVID-19 symptoms.
Here’s a summary of the migraine symptoms the three people experienced before and during COVID-19 illness:
|Case||Before COVID-19||During COVID-19|
|Case 1||Migraine episodes approximately twice per month with good response to pain medication.||Visual aura in both her eyes along with smell hypersensitivity that lasted 35 minutes. She experienced the most severe migraine episode of her life with a poor response to medication. Two days later, she lost her sense of smell and developed a fever and muscle pain.|
|Case 2||Migraine episodes approximately once per month with good response to pain medication.||Sudden burning in her ears with hearing impairment accompanied by a visual aura in her right visual field for 20 minutes. Two days later, she developed loss of smell and dry cough.|
|Case 3||Migraine episodes occurred about 9 days per month. Had never experienced a visual aura.||Developed visual aura without headache three times within a week. She described her symptoms as flashes of light and movements of images that lasted 15–30 minutes.|
Why might COVID-19 increase migraine frequency or intensity?
According to the study authors, headaches may form due to the coronavirus invading the trigeminal nerve, which could activate mechanisms that are known to cause migraine episodes and other types of pain. The trigeminal nerve is the largest of your 12 cranial nerves.
Research has found that parts of the trigeminal nerve lack the protective blood-brain barrier that helps prevent microorganisms from entering the central nervous system.
The coronavirus is thought to enter cells in your body through receptors for the enzyme called angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).
Effects of the pandemic on people with migraine
Various factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic unrelated to direct viral infection may have led to increased migraine frequency or severity in some people.
Factors such as lack of communication with a neurologist and increased stress may have played a role.
Only 4 percent of the study participants developed COVID-19, but of those people, 63.4 percent reported their migraine worsening.
It’s possible that ocular migraine could persist even after recovery from COVID-19 in some people.
Some people develop headaches that last for months after COVID-19. For example, in one case study, a woman had persistent loss of smell and experienced headaches 80 days after the onset of her symptoms.
She experienced migraine-like headaches during her COVID-19 illness, but she reported that her subsequent headaches felt different.
Researchers are still trying to understand why some people develop long-haul COVID-19 symptoms after recovering from their initial infection. It’s possible that increased inflammation and neurological damage play a role.
Ocular migraine often refers to any headache that causes visual disturbances. It may also refer to a specific type of migraine that causes vision loss called retinal migraine.
Case studies report that some people with a history of migraine develop more frequent migraine episodes during COVID-19. Some people without a history of migraine also experience migraine-like headaches.