Migraines Linked With Thinning Retinal Layers

Glaucoma prevalence is not significantly higher in patients who experience migraines.

Migraines significantly reduce retinal layer thickness, according to an investigation published in the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology. However, the prevalence of glaucoma is not notably higher in people who suffer from migraines. 

Researchers conducted a study of 222 eyes of 111 patients separated into 3 equal groups, each consisting of 74 eyes of 37 patients. A migraine, tension-type headache (TTH), and normal group underwent a thorough ophthalmological evaluation which included an optic disc analysis for glaucomatous changes, computerized visual field testing, and optical coherence tomography (OCT) for peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (pRNFL) thickness and central macular thickness (CMT). 

All 3 groups were comparable with regards to age, sex distribution, presence of comorbidities, family history of glaucoma, and type of refractive error. Of the 74 eyes in each group, 9 eyes (12.6%) in the migraine group, 5 eyes (6.76%) in the TTH group, and 3 eyes (4.05%) in the normal group had either glaucoma or were glaucoma suspect. Although glaucomatous changes were common in the migraine group, this was not statistically significant (Fisher’s exact P =.207).

Average pRNFL thickness (103.59±12.82 μm), along with thickness in the nasal (90.49±19.19 μm) and temporal quadrants (70.58±16.13 μm) and CMT (213.78±19.81 μm), were significantly lower (ANOVA P <.05) in the migraine group than in the other groups, regardless of the presence of glaucoma.   

“Migraine causes significant thinning of retinal layers (pRNFL and CMT) on OCT, which may be attributed to a common underlying vascular dysregulation mechanism similar to that postulated in the pathogenesis of NTG/POAG,” the researchers speculate. “From our study, we have seen that migraine causes thinning on OCT even in eyes without glaucoma.” 

Study limitations include the measurement of all macular layers instead of focusing on a strict ganglion cell layer analysis and a limited study duration. 


Panicker G, Kaliaperumal S, Narayan S, Mani M. Glaucoma and optical coherence tomography changes in migraine: A comparative cross-sectional study. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2021;69(12):3546-3551. doi:10.4103/ijo.IJO_375_21