Reduced Visual Quality of Life Associated with Migraine is Most Closely Correlated with Symptoms of Dry Eye

Headache. 2019 Nov;59(10):1714-1721. doi: 10.1111/head.13662. Epub 2019 Sep 26.


Background and objective: Patients with migraine frequently report ocular or visual symptoms including aura, photophobia, and eye pain. Using validated instruments, our group previously reported that due to these symptoms, patients have marked reductions in visual quality of life. In chronic migraine, these reductions can be as substantial as those reported for other neuro-ophthalmic diseases such as multiple sclerosis with optic neuritis and idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Because the instruments take several different dimensions into account, we were unable to determine which ocular symptom(s) contributed to reduced visual quality of life. The purpose of this investigation was to attempt to determine which ocular symptom(s) were driving the observed reduction in visual quality of life.

Methods: We designed a cross-sectional survey-based study to assess visual quality of life, headache impact, aura, dry eye, and photophobia in migraine patients. Subjects were recruited from the Headache Clinic and General Neurology Clinic at a tertiary teaching hospital. Subjects completed validated questionnaires including: The visual functioning questionnaire-25 (VFQ-25), the headache impact test (HIT-6), the visual aura rating scale (VARS), the ocular surface disease index (OSDI), and the Utah photophobia score (UPSIS-17). Associations between VFQ-25 and OSDI, VFQ-25 and VARS, VFQ-25 and UPSIS-17, HIT-6 and OSDI, HIT-6 and VARS, and HIT-6 and UPSIS-17 were calculated.

Results: Of the 62 patients who completed all questionnaires, 17 had episodic migraine and 45 had chronic migraine. Twenty-three patients experienced aura and 39 did not report aura. The most striking correlations were observed between the VFQ-25 and the OSDI (-0.678; P < .001), between the HIT-6 and UPSIS-17 (0.489; P < .001), and between the HIT-6 and OSDI (0.453; P < .001).

Conclusions: Dry eye seems to be the most important symptom that reduces visual quality of life and worsens headache impact. This symptom may be a form of allodynia, a well-known feature of chronic migraine. Photophobia appears to have modest effects on headache impact. In the future, we hope to determine whether treatment of dry eye symptoms can improve visual quality of life and reduce headache impact.

Keywords: dry eye; light sensitivity; migraine; migraine aura; photophobia; visual quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / complications*
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Eye Pain / complications*
  • Eye Pain / diagnosis
  • Eye Pain / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology
  • Quality of Life*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*