Eight Weeks and Counting

Ocular migraine aura

It was around 20 years ago when it first occurred.

I was at work, sitting at my desk, it was just a few minutes before quitting time, and I realized I was going blind.

That is, a large block of my vision was distorted.

So I did what I normally did when I had a medical problem at work; I consulted Dr. Pat.

Dr. Pat being a co-worker who liked to read up on medical stuff.

When I explained what was happening, she asked if I was seeing some sort of a fluctuating zigzag pattern. Yes, I was.

Oh, that’s an aura, she said. It’ll go away in a few minutes.

And to my relief, it did.

After that I would experience these “auras” every once in a while and they’d last about 15 or 20 minutes, but I thought “aura” was a particularly inadequate and very undescriptive name for them. They were more like coruscating zigzags, I thought. So I started calling them ziggies.

Eventually they became a bit more frequent, and sometimes they’d be followed by a headache, but what was far, far worse was that on very rare occasions they left me with a brain fog for several hours. By that I mean, I’d be incapable of understanding some of the simplest concepts or remembering very ordinary things. That was truly scary.

Over the years the ziggies seemed to come and go. When I quit drinking Diet Coke, the ziggies disappeared for months, and I thought I was cured.

But eventually they came back.

Then I had some chronic muscle pain, so I was taking a daily dose of ibuprofen for a while and once again the ziggies disappeared. 

But they always came back.

When they got to where they were coming at me every couple of days, I found them to be a real nuisance. Not to mention the once or twice yearly brain fog.

So I asked my doctor for some relief, but the medication he gave me was worse than the ziggies as it left me drowsy all day. So I cancelled that. Then I asked for a referral to a specialist, so he sent me to a neurologist.

She diagnosed my condition with the term ocular migraine and prescribed topiramate, three 25 mg tablets per day. She suggested that I take them in the evening, but you know me, or perhaps you don’t; well, in any case, I thought it was just a suggestion, and it’s just easier for me to take medication in the morning when I have breakfast, so that’s what I did.

And I found that the topiramate did cut down on the frequency of the ziggies, but it also made me just a little bit tired. Not as much as the medication my primary doctor had prescribed, but still.

So I spoke to my neurologist and she said her “suggestion” for taking the topiramate in the evening was so I would not feel drowsy during the day. Duh!

Then she suggested taking magnesium as well because it had been shown to be helpful; I was worried that it’s laxative properties might trigger my IBS, but I agreed to try it.

It did seem to be helpful but I was always wary while I was taking it, and finally it happened. I had a serious IBS attack, and while I couldn’t specifically blame it on the magnesium (just as we can’t blame any specific catastrophic weather event on global climate change), I decided I didn’t want to take it any more.

But something that the neurologist had said kept nagging me. She had suggested that I take one magnesium capsule early in the morning and another at lunch time so that it would provide protection against the ziggies during the day.


Taking the three tablets of topiramate in the evening was currently keeping the ziggies down to about once per week.

What if, and maybe this was a crazy idea, but what if I took two tablets at night, and one at breakfast? I’d still be taking the same total dosage. But I’d be spreading it out a little bit more, and perhaps only having one in the morning wouldn’t make me so drowsy during the day.

So I tried it.

And whaddaya know? The ziggies suddenly dropped down to one every three weeks!

Not bad.

And that’s where things stood when I last visited the neurologist. Or actually her nurse practitioner, as she’s not seeing patients nearly as often anymore.

But since then, things have only gotten even better. In fact, according to my journal, my last ziggy was on May 22, which by my calculation is eight weeks ago. I believe that’s the longest I’ve gone without a ziggy in well over ten years.

Leave a Reply