Results from a recent study suggest that changes in blood flow in the retina could explain why some migraine patients experience visual symptoms. These findings could provide a long-awaited observable marker for migraines that doctors can use to support clinical management of the condition.
While patients with migraines often experience symptoms such as eye pain, sensitivity to light, blind spots, and blurred vision, the mechanisms behind these symptoms are not fully understood. Researchers at UCLA Health used a non-invasive imaging technique known as optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) to visualize changes in retinal blood vessels of migraine patients during and between migraine attacks. The imaging was done on 37 migraine patients with aura symptoms, 30 migraine patients without aura symptoms, and 20 healthy patients in a control group.
The researchers found that retinal blood flow decreases during migraine attacks in both patients with and without aura symptoms. However, it was noticed that patients with aura symptoms had reduced blood flow in certain areas of the retina compared to patients without aura symptoms. Additionally, the asymmetrical blood flow in the retina also correlated with the side of the head where migraine patients experienced pain.
The results could shed light on why some patients experience visual symptoms and may represent a biomarker for migraine attacks.
The study was led by former clinical instructor of the Department of Neurology at UCLA, Dr. Katherine Podraza (now at the Hartford Healthcare Headache Center), and co-authored by former UCLA Health research scientist Nitin Bangera, clinical research coordinator of the UCLA Goldberg Migraine Program, Akira Feliz, and director of the UCLA Goldberg Migraine Program, Dr. Andrew Charles from the UCLA Department of Neurology.
University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences