How Do I Know if I’m Having an Ocular Migraine?

by | Apr 11, 2022

Most people are familiar with classic migraines as a painful headache that affects about 10 percent of the US population. Still, the visual distortion that comes with ocular migraines is not always related to head pain.

What Is an Ocular Migraine?

According to the American Migraine Foundation, Ocular Migraine is a term used to refer to a number of migraine subtypes characterized by various visual disturbances, including visual loss and blind spots, zig-zag lines, or seeing stars. It is not uncommon for an individual to experience a wide range of visual symptoms.

Types of Ocular Migraine

Migraine With Aura

Migraine Aura impairs vision, with symptoms like flashes of light, blind spots, seeing stars or patterns, and other minor sight issues that go away after a short period. While the most noticeable symptoms are visual disruptions, the Aura can also affect other senses and interfere with speech, motor skills, or other central nervous symptoms. Migraine Aura can occur with a headache or without and is typically short in duration. When aura symptoms appear in conjunction with head pain, they usually occur between the premonitory phase and the peak pain phase of migraine, between the signs that warn of an impending attack, and when the head pain itself hits. They may, however, last more than 1 hour in about 20% of individuals and may follow the onset of head pain in some instances. Migraine with Aura occurs in 25-30 percent of people with migraines, and less than 20% of individuals with migraine visual Aura have the aura phase with every migraine attack.

Retinal Migraine

Retinal Migraine refers to visual symptoms that occur in only one eye before or during the headache phase of a migraine attack. Retinal Migraine symptoms tend to be more intrusive than aura symptoms and include decreased vision, the appearance of twinkling lights, and temporary blindness. It can be difficult for patients to distinguish between Migraine with Aura and Retinal Migraine, so it’s essential to consult a doctor if you think you may be experiencing Retinal Migraine symptoms. Irreversible visual loss may be a complication of Retinal Migraine.

What Causes These Migraine Types With Vision Disturbance?

The causes of ocular migraines differ from person to person. Straining your eyes by staring at a screen for long periods, spending time in fluorescent or harsh lighting, driving long distances, and other taxing visual activities can increase your risk of attacks. Some say chocolate or caffeine triggers them, while others believe stress and certain medications are factors. However, other sufferers say they experience ocular migraines at random times. When a ocular migraine begins, it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to stop it. The migraine aura typically disappears in about 30 to 40 minutes, and headaches (if you get them) come about 10 to 15 minutes after the aura stage.

Contact Us to Learn More

If you have experienced any of the types of ocular migraine, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with us so that we can discover the underlying cause and make a plan to address it. Be aware and stay in tune of what is happening with your vision. Don’t hesitate to contact your eye doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of the symptoms above.

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Florida Eye Microsurgical Institute

References: American Migraine Foundation, American Academy of Ophthalmology, and American Optometric Association

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