A couple walks through the grocery store as one experiences vision loss.

Watching My Partner Experience Ocular Migraines

We were walking through the grocery store together in a daze. It had been the hardest week of our lives. A few days prior, I'd given birth to our twins at just 11 weeks gestation - way too early for them to survive.

Suddenly, my husband looked at me and said "I can't really see out of my right eye. What's happening?"

My husband has mostly been the picture of health for the nine years we'd been together, so this was startling to him. Unfortunately, as someone who lives with several chronic conditions, this was just another symptom to me.

What was he experiencing?

I started asking him questions, trying to identify anything else he was experiencing. I learned, in simplest terms, that his head hurt, the lights in the store were making it worse, and he felt kind of like he was going to throw up. My intuition - ocular migraine.

Have I had ocular migraine before?

I personally have not experienced this type of migraine before, but as someone who lives with migraines and has been asked a zillion questions to rule out other neurological conditions, I have a pretty expansive knowledge and heath literacy when it comes to this condition.

How did I help him?

I grabbed my husbands hand, left our shopping cart in the middle of the aisle, and walked him out to our car. I told him to close his eyes, and I drove the short distance back to our house. I helped him navigate to our bedroom where I closed the curtains, darkening the space. I brought him an ice pack, and some ibuprofen, and told him to rest.

How long did it take to subside?

Within about two hours, he was seemingly fine. We discussed the likely triggers of this attack - lack of sleep, heightened stress, grief, intense crying, dehydration, bright light, and maybe even too much caffeine. He shook it off, and went back to parenting our daughter, doing projects around the house, and the next day, work.

Has he experienced these attacks again?

Maybe a month later, it happened again. This time, he was slightly less caught off guard, and I was decently more concerned.

Once it passed, I called and made him an appointment with my headache specialist. I went with him to his first appointment, and was so surprised that he asked no questions - just simply listened to what the doctor said, took the prescriptions for the preventative medication and the abortive medication options, and walked out the door.

Should he have asked questions?

Now, maybe it's the years of being a chronic patient, or the way my brain works, but I have never ever had a doctor's appointment in which I asked no questions, or felt no concern.

His nonchalance was shocking to me. But again, he's also been healthy his entire life, so dealing with something that could become chronic was entirely new. And maybe he was approaching it in the way that felt most helpful to him. But honestly, it felt sort of alarming to me.

Were the treatments working?

This new regimen he was prescribed took a little while to begin working. In the interim, he experienced a few "regular" migraines without the loss of sight, and brushed them all off as if they were individual encounters. Meanwhile, I was watching the pattern, feeling more and concerned.

Finally, the medications changed the pattern, and the frequency of these migraines decreased to only periodic, or episodic, and I exhaled for him. I had been so concerned, and while some of that might have been projection, I think a lot of it was valid, not wanting someone I love to experience the pain and suffering of migraines that I have.

Have any of you watched your partners experience migraines similarly or differently than you have? How did you react?

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