A recent study conducted by UCLA Health researchers has shed light on the connection between blood flow changes in the eyes and visual symptoms experienced by patients with migraines. This breakthrough finding could potentially serve as an observable marker for migraines, aiding doctors in the clinical treatment of the condition.
Migraine patients often endure symptoms such as eye pain, light sensitivity, blind spots, and blurred vision. However, the underlying mechanisms responsible for these symptoms have remained largely unknown. By utilizing a non-invasive imaging technique called optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA), the researchers were able to observe changes in retinal blood vessels in migraine patients during and between migraine attacks. The study included 37 migraine patients with aura symptoms, 30 migraine patients without aura symptoms, and 20 healthy individuals as a control group.
The results revealed that blood flow in the retina decreases during migraine attacks in both migraine patients with and without aura symptoms. However, patients with aura symptoms displayed lower blood flow in specific areas of the retina in comparison to patients without aura symptoms. Furthermore, the researchers discovered a correlation between asymmetrical blood flow in the retinas and the location of pain experienced on the patients’ heads.
These findings provide insight into the cause of visual symptoms in migraine patients and suggest that they could serve as a biomarker for impending migraine attacks. The study, titled “Blood Flow Changes in the Retina of Migraine Patients with and Without Aura,” has been published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.
Led by Dr. Katherine Podraza, former UCLA Department of Neurology Clinical Instructor (currently with the Hartford Healthcare Headache Center), the study was coauthored by Nitin Bangera, former research scientist at UCLA Health, Akira Feliz, clinical research coordinator at the UCLA Goldberg Migraine Program, and Dr. Andrew Charles, the Director of the UCLA Goldberg Migraine Program and a member of the UCLA Department of Neurology.