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What to Know About Ocular Migraine

May 29, 2024

Have you ever noticed a flickering spot of light that gradually expands until it dominates your field of vision?

If so, you may have encountered an ocular migraine. This phenomenon can be quite unsettling if you're not familiar with what's occurring, and somewhat confusingly, it isn't always associated with the intense headache typically linked to migraines.

Understanding Different Types of Visual Migraines

Generally, an ocular migraine is not a cause for serious concern, but occasionally, it may signal a more significant health issue. These migraines can be classified into three distinct categories.

1. Painless Ocular Migraines

Ocular migraines can manifest as a peculiar visual disturbance without any associated pain. These visual effects may include flashes or shimmering lights, hallucinogenic-like images, or a variety of zigzagging lines or stars, giving the sensation of a kaleidoscope spinning before your eyes. Typically, this visual anomaly starts as a small distortion in the center of your vision, expanding gradually until it covers your entire sight, and then disappearing as suddenly as it appeared. This type generally affects both eyes simultaneously in the same manner.

Complications of the symptoms of painless ocular migraines can include temporary challenges with motor skills and speech, impacting routine tasks such as reading or writing. If such a migraine occurs while you are driving, it is crucial to pull over safely and wait until your vision clears, which usually resolves within an hour, before continuing to drive.

2. Migraine With Aura

Approximately 20% of individuals who suffer from migraine headaches experience ocular migraines as a precursor. This phenomenon is crucial to discuss with your healthcare provider as it can serve as an important warning sign. Many people who recognize this symptom are able to successfully decrease the frequency of their painful migraines by identifying and avoiding triggers such as stress, specific foods, or intense light.

3. Retinal Migraine

The terms may sound alike, but retinal migraines and ocular migraines are distinctly different conditions. While ocular migraines are generally benign and can affect both eyes, retinal migraines impact only one eye. This type of migraine occurs when the blood vessels in the retina constrict, significantly reducing blood flow. Retinal migraines might occur infrequently, perhaps only once every few months, but it is essential to report them to your doctor. This will help determine if they are symptomatic of a more severe underlying issue.

We're Here to Support Your Vision Health!

As your dedicated partners in lifelong vision care, we are eager to hear about any changes in your vision, even those that are temporary, like ocular migraines. If you recognize any of the symptoms we've discussed, please schedule an appointment to explore the causes together. You are also welcome to email us with any questions regarding ocular migraines.

We truly believe our patients are the best anywhere!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.