I had a prescription of -6.5 in both eyes growing up (that’s pretty severe and required thick glasses). I was also very active growing up playing basketball, swimming, surfing, and skiing. I still have vivid memories of trying to hold my head a certain way, to keep the heavy glasses balanced on my head. I tried all the modern gadgets in the 80’s and 90’s, sports glasses, bands to hold the glasses in place, and still my glasses would fly off of my face, and I wanted to be free of them.
So, as soon as I could, I got contact lenses. Then in high school I started getting visual auras before migraine. I would see scintillating lights, a marching scatoma across my vision, followed by a severe headache. I would do the same routine each time, take out the contacts, get a severe headache, put on glasses and feel a little bit off balance and foggy, and then got a severe headache.
Sometimes I thought I felt better with the contacts on, but I would still get the headaches. But I couldn’t help but wonder, was I getting the headaches because I was switching from contacts to glasses? Or was it because when I wore glasses, I could see something blurry in my peripheral vision? Was my constant unclear perception of the world contributing to my headaches? I could never seem to see a super clear picture of the world.
Over the years I continued to get more migraines…..and they started to last longer. I convinced myself that the headaches were because of the contacts and the glasses mismatching what I was seeing in the world. In essence, I felt like I could never adjust and see clearly.
So, after a surfing wipe out when I opened my eyes with contacts which kept me confused and underwater longer than I was comfortable, and years of doing research, and more years in medical school of staring at books and at screens I decided to get PRK laser eye surgery. The headaches were also worse, they were longer, and lasted for more days. So the effects of the headaches were longer too; feeling out of it and foggy, having blurry vision, and pain on my scalp sometimes.
The eye surgery was amazing. I could open my eyes underwater in the ocean, I could play sports freely, and wake up in the morning and see right away. It was nothing short of AMAZING.
BUT my headaches didn’t change. They were as frequent and as severe as they were before the eye surgery.
I have to admit that I was disappointed by this, even though the eye doctors told me it wouldn’t change things and even though I knew myself it wouldn’t make a difference from everything I read and studied. I still in my mind just expected it to get better.
So, when I had a patient ask me this question exactly this week, “Do you think if I correct my vision, it will change my headaches”, it got me thinking about what we believe and how we can convince ourselves of things. It is just how our brains work.
Migraines are unfortunately an innate brain and pain problem. So we try to blame the pain on our vision, screens, sinuses etc, and anything else we can think. But I have an excitable brain, as we believe is the case in migraine, it is better for me to know and accept that I have a propensity to have migraines. And what I can do is try to avoid triggers that might bring on the headache.
I don’t regret getting the eye surgery, not for a minute, but expecting it would help my headaches, that was a mistake.
To live and learn…..well is human.
Do you have things you thought caused your migraines and were surprised when they didn’t?