Treating this common eye condition might cure your migraines

If you suffer from migraines, you know that they seriously affect your eyes. Migraines can cause temporary blind spots, auras, flashes of light, zigzagging patterns or even make you see “stars.”

Now, the exact cause of migraines is still a mystery. But all these eye-related symptoms make you wonder…

Is the answer to migraines in the eye?

It could be. In fact, a new study shows that migraines are closely connected to one eye condition in particular…

Chronic dry eye.

The connection between chronic dry eye and migraines

A recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that people who suffer from migraines are 20 percent more likely to have chronic dry eye.

The study tracked the eye health of 73,000 people for 10 years. Overall, people with migraines had a 20 percent higher risk of dry eye, but that risk jumped significantly with age. Researchers found that men over 65 with migraines had double the risk of dry eye, and women over 65 with migraines had 2.5 times the risk.

Now, the study didn’t uncover a cause-effect relationship between dry eye and migraines, per say. But that’s a possibility. In fact, Angela Bevels, an optometrist who runs a clinic treating dry eye disease in Arizona, says in her case, dry eye was the driving factor behind her migraines.

“I myself suffered from migraine headaches for many years, when I also happened to have undiagnosed dry eye. I didn’t connect the two conditions at the time, but this new research makes me believe they may have been related after all,” said Bevels. “Reinforcing my impression is the fact that my migraines have drastically improved over the past two years — the exact amount of time since I’ve been successfully treated for dry eye.”

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Treating dry eye to alleviate migraines

So, should you treat your dry eye to ease your migraines?

It’s not a bad idea, even if the research isn’t fully cooked yet. But don’t turn to the popular prescription medication Restasis. Research shows that it doesn’t work.

Instead, get to root cause of your chronic dry eye. It’s usually the side effect of another disease or condition. In fact, one study found that people with vitamin D deficiency are more likely to have dry eye. But there are lots of potentital causes for this condition, and the cause may be different for everybody. Some causes to consider are:

  • Seasonal allergies
  • Autoimmune disorders like Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Rosacea
  • Blepharitis (an inflammatory eyelid disease)
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Laser eye surgery
  • Staring at screens for prolonged periods
  • Exposure to windy, smoky or dry environments

Any one of these conditions or situations can trigger dry eye, so I recommend going down the list and taking note of the ones that apply to you. Once the underlying condition causing your dry eye improves, your dry eye should go away too… and hopefully even your migraines!

If you’re looking for a few ways to improve your dry eyes (and hopefully your migraines) right away, consider these simple habits:

  • Drink more water. When you’re dehydrated, your eyes produce less tears.
  • Take omega-3 supplements. A 2013 clinical trial showed that omega-3 supplements significantly improved dry eye symptoms in 65 percent of people who took them.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleeping enough gives your eyes an opportunity to rest and replenish. It also keeps your hormones balanced, and hormonal shifts (like during pregnancy and menopause) are a potential cause of dry eye.
  • Drink more caffeine and eat less sugar. Like most health conditions, diet can play a part in chronic dry eye. Research shows that caffeine tends to alleviate dry eye by increasing tear production, while sugar tends to aggravate it.

Sources:

  1. Ocular migraine: When to seek help — Mayo Clinic
  2. Dry eye and migraines might be linked: study — MedicalXpress
  3. The Impact of Sugar Consumption on Eye Health — Boston Sight
  4. 5 ways to beat this sneaky cause of dry eye — Easy Health Options

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.