Chronic Migraine Linked to Lower Visual Quality of Life

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Researchers found that people who suffer from chronic migraine experience visual quality of life impacts comparable to other neoro-opthalmic disorders.

Visual quality of life is adversely affected by the presence of migraine, according to a new study. Researchers found that people who suffer from chronic migraine in particular experience visual quality of life impacts comparable to other neuro-opthalmic disorders.

While aura and photophobia—extreme sensitivity to light—are commonly associated with migraine, this is the first study to determine the impact of other, less recognized vision-related symptoms on a person’s visual quality of life.

The researchers used a cross-sectional survey evaluating the visual quality of life in 106 patients with chronic and episodic migraine from the University of Utah between September 2015 and February 2016. Each participant completed 4 questionnaires inquiring about overall headache impact, quality of life, impact on social and work activities, and emotional aspects of life.


Of the 106 participants, 29 had chronic migraine, 37 had episodic migraine, and 40 had no migraine (controls). Across all questionnaires, chronic migraine was the most highly associated with adverse impacts. Those with chronic migraine indicated significantly higher headache impact than those with episodic migraine and controls. Similarly, chronic migraine was also associated with the highest overall headache burden and the worst visual quality of life. Compared to controls, those with episodic migraine had worse visual quality of life.

The subscales most affected included ocular pain, near and distance activities, and limitations in fulfilling perceived obligations at home or the workplace. Visual quality of life scores among those with chronic migraine were similar to scores among patients with multiple sclerosis who had a history of optic neuritis and idiopathic intracranial hypertension.

“It will come as no surprise that diseases involving the visual system, such as idiopathic intracranial hypertension and optic neuritis, result in decreased visual quality of life,” wrote the authors. “Most clinicians are aware of the visual symptoms associated with migraine, but the degree to which they are detrimental to the visual quality of life is less well recognized.”

They note that these study findings should indicate that for patients with chronic migraine, their visual quality of life may be as hindered as those with optic neuritis and idiopathic intracranial hypertension. They conclude that practitioners should be aware of this effect, and in turn, should consider working with these patients to improve their pain and visual functioning, which may improve treatment outcomes.

These study results came just a few weeks prior to a study indicating that history of migraine is linked to the development of tinnitus and other cochlear disorders. Researchers of the study observed that those with migraine were nearly 3 times more likely to develop a cochlear disorder.

History of migraine has also been associated with sleep disorders, hypertension, and musculoskeletal disorders.


Hanson L, Ahmed Z, Katz B, et al. Patients with migraine have substantial reductions in measures of visual quality of life [published online June 7, 2018]. Headache. doi: