Risk of Retinal Artery Occlusion in Patients with Migraine

Am J Ophthalmol. 2021 May;225:157-165. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2020.11.004. Epub 2020 Dec 24.


Purpose: We sought to determine if migraine is associated with increased risk of retinal artery occlusion (RAO).

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Methods: We reviewed a large insurance claims database for patients with migraine and matched control subjects without migraine between 2007 and 2016. Cox proportional hazard regression models were used to investigate the association between migraine and risk of all RAO, central RAO (CRAO), branch RAO (BRAO), and "other" RAO, which includes transient and partial RAO. Primary outcome measures included the incidence of all RAO, including CRAO, BRAO, and other RAO, after first migraine diagnosis.

Result: There were 418,965 patients with migraine who met the study criteria and were included in the analysis with the appropriate matched control subjects. Among the 418,965 patients with migraine, 1060 (0.25%) were subsequently diagnosed with RAO, whereas only 335 (0.08%) of the patients without migraine were diagnosed with RAO. The hazard ratio (HR) for incident all RAO in patients with migraine compared with those without migraine was 3.48 (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.07-3.94; P < .0001). This association was consistent across all types of RAO, including CRAO (HR 1.62 [95% CI 1.15-2.28]; P = .004), BRAO (HR 2.09 [95% CI 1.60-2.72]; P < .001), and other types of RAO (HR 4.61 [95% CI 3.94-5.38]; P < .001). Patients with migraine with aura had a higher risk for incident RAO compared with those with migraine without aura (HR 1.58 [95% CI 1.40-1.79]; P < .001). This association was consistent for BRAO (HR 1.43 [95% CI 1.04-1.97]; P < .03) and other types of RAO (HR 1.67 [95% CI 1.45-1.91]; P < .001) but was not statistically significant for CRAO (HR 1.18 [95% CI 0.75-1.87]; P = .475). Significant risk factors for this association included increased age, male sex, acute coronary syndrome, valvular disease, carotid disease, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, retinal vasculitis or inflammation, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Conclusions: Migraine is associated with increased risk of all types of RAO and migraine with aura is associated with increased risk of RAO compared with migraine without aura.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / etiology*
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Visual Acuity / physiology