Why Do I Get Frequent Ocular Migraines
For migraine sufferers, visual disturbances like zigzag lines or flashes of light are common occurrences, especially in those who experience an aura prior to a migraine. But some people experience these visual disturbances and do not get the pain associated with a migraine. These visual disturbances are known as ocular migraines or migraines of the eye. But what exactly are they and why do they happen so frequently?
Can High Blood Pressure Cause Ocular Migraines
Researchers are working to fully understand the relationship between high blood pressure and ocular migraines.
Current research points to the fact that migraine attacks are prevalent in people with high blood pressure.
Anyone suffering from high blood pressure is advised to get it under control, especially those with a known history of ocular migraines.
What Are Ocular Migraines
An ocular migraine can cause vision loss or blindness for a short time — less than an hour. This happens before or along with a migraine headache.
It’s rare. Some research suggests that in many cases, the symptoms are due to other problems.
Other migraine attacks can also cause vision problems. An aura migraine can involve flashing lights and blind spots. These symptoms usually happen in both eyes.
Talk to your doctor to find out if you have ocular migraine. They can rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Be ready to describe what you went through as completely as you can to help them figure out what’s really going on.
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Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
The diagnosis of retinal migraine is one of exclusion and all other causes of vision loss should initially be considered. All members of the healthcare team should be vigilant and refer the patient for immediate and emergent assessment for stroke or other thromboembolic causes for their symptoms if the patient presents with visual loss or changes.
Ocular Migraine And Visual Migraine Symptoms
Ocular migraine symptoms generally include a small blind spot that affects your central vision in one eye. This blind spot gets larger, making it impossible for you to drive safely or read with the affected eye.
In some cases, the entire visual field of one eye may be affected. Generally, the episode lasts less than an hour.
Visual migraine symptoms can vary, and may include:
Visual migraines often appear suddenly and may create the sensation of looking through a cracked window. The visual migraine aura usually moves across your field of view and disappears within 30 minutes.
A flickering blind spot in the center or near the center of your field of view
A wavy or zigzag ring of colored light surrounding a central blind spot
A blind spot that slowly migrates across your visual field
The symptoms of a visual migraine typically affect both eyes and last less than 30 minutes. A migraine headache may occur shortly after the symptoms of a visual migraine subside or no headache may occur.
If you’re experiencing a blind spot or other visual disturbance and you’re not sure if it’s an ocular migraine or a visual migraine , cover one eye at a time. If the visual disturbance affects just one eye, it’s probably an ocular migraine. If it affects both eyes, it’s likely a visual migraine.
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Whats The Difference Between Ocular Migraines And Retinal Migraines
You might hear people use the terms ocular migraine and retinal migraine interchangeably.
Ocular migraine generally means any headache that causes temporary changes in vision. Retinal migraine describes a more specific condition: itâs monocular, which means that it affects just one eye. So a retinal migraine is actually a kind of ocular migraine.
Recognizing An Ocular Migraine
Symptoms of a migraine aura can be both positive or negative in nature. Positive symptoms include things that you can see, whereas negative symptoms involve missing portions of vision.
Positive symptoms include:
- Vision loss in one or both eye
Other signs of an ocular migraine, or migraine aura, can include changes or loss of color vision, blurred vision, a kaleidoscope-like fracturing of images, heat waves, distortion in objects , or an appearance of seeing things as if one were looking through water. Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, weakness, and head pain are additional possible effects of an ocular migraine.
The National Headache Foundation publishes that visual auras typically precede an actual headache or migraine by about 20 minutes to an hour, although the symptoms can persist with the headache itself. Visual impairments that accompany an ocular migraine can make it difficult to function normally and do things like drive safely or read.
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Headache Vs Ocular Migraine
It is important to not get confused between regular headache and ocular or retinal migraine. Normal migraine can happen because of external stimuli such as loud sounds/music, sensitivity to bright light , too much screen time or side effects of some medications. If youre getting frequent headaches, this might be an indication for you to get your eyes tested. If a prescription is found, your optometrist or optician will provide you with advice and a copy of your prescription so that you can opt for glasses or contact lenses that are appropriate for your needs.
On the other hand, an ocular migraine happens as a result of contraction in the blood vessels in the retina, causing short-term vision disruption such as blind spots or visible halows. This eye condition may or may not occur with a headache.
Why Does An Ocular Migraine Happen
Its believed that ocular migraines have similar causes as a migraine headache. Both may have a genetic link, with those who have a family history of migraines being more susceptible to them.
The cause of ocular migraines can be down to reduced blood flow in the retina. The blood vessels to the eye suddenly narrow, reducing the blood flow to the eye. Many triggers may contribute to the onset of an ocular migraine, and they may differ from person to person.
Triggers can include stress, lack of sleep, smoking and certain foods like caffeine, chocolate or red wine. Ocular migraines are more common in women, and more common amongst those under 40.
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What Causes Ocular And Visual Migraines
Currently, there is limited research on what causes ocular and visual migraines.
Although studies have shown a change in blood flow into the eye during ocular migraines, the exact cause of this change remains unclear.
However, scientists sometimes associate the condition with genetics, meaning it may run in the family.
According to research, up to 70% of migraine patients have a personal or family history of migraine.2
Migraine triggers play a vital role in the onset and frequency of migraines.
Common migraine triggers include:3
- Alcoholic drinks such as red wine
- Excess heat or high altitude
What Triggers An Ocular Migraine
Ocular migraines can be triggered by a number of factors. Quite often, people are genetically predisposed to suffering more from migraines, especially women aged under 40. Otherwise, ocular migraines can be brought on by:
- Bending over or standing up quickly
- High altitude or changing weather
- Consumption of certain foods, caffeine or alcohol
- Changes in hormone levels e.g. pregnancy or menopause
After your first episode, it is important to visit your doctor to check if there are any underlying conditions that caused your ocular migraine. Ocular migraines sometimes occur as a side effect of a number of health issues including:
- Inflammation in the brain
Finding out the cause of your ocular migraine could potentially help you get treatment for a more serious condition that you didnt know you had.
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Pearls And Other Issues
- A retinal migraine a rare phenomenon that usually affects monocular vision transiently.
- Duration of symptoms on average is 5 to 20 minutes.
- The prognosis for an ocular migraine is good.
- The frequency and intensity of the headache typically decrease.
- During prolonged periods of retinal, choroidal, or optic nerve hypoxia, permanent visual loss may occur.
Causes Of Migraine Aura
Migraines generally have four phases: prodrome, aura, headache attack, and postdrome. Not everyone with migraines experiences all four phases. The aura phase, which usually lasts an hour or less, is when visual disturbances are experienced. It can also coincide with headache and other migraine symptoms.
Different types of brain activity have been measured during migraines with aura. They show changes in blood flow and metabolism in the occipital cortex, an area of the brain that affects vision. Cortical spreading depression is a slowly spreading wave of changing brain activity. It has been associated with visual aura in migraines. The slow spread of brain disturbance is believed to correspond with the gradual onset and duration of aura.
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A Guide To Ocular Migraine: Everything You Need To Know
We have all experienced different types of headaches. Most adults get headaches now and then, but how do you know if its serious? But there is a throbbing excruciating pain in your head that usually signals that you do not have a normal headache.
These are signs that you might be having a migraine. The most common neurological disorder is the migraine. It is estimated that a whopping 30 million Americans are suffering from migraines each year. What is even worse is that if you suffer from migraines, you are more likely to suffer a stroke.
Different types of migraines are caused by different things, each with a different set of symptoms.
An ocular migraine is a type of migraine that involves visual interference. Since some migraines, including the ocular migraine with aura, can show similar symptoms as life-threatening conditions, you need to know the differences and knowing when it as an emergency.
Ocular Migraine Triggers And Treatments
Triggers of ocular migraines can include caffeine, chocolate, red wine, blue cheese, nuts, and processed meats. Stress or release of tension, bright lights, and exercise can also be triggers.
Treatments are often unnecessary because the visual disturbance only lasts for a short time, and the headaches arent severe. Some people find that taking an aspirin at the onset of their symptoms can prevent the headache altogether. While caffeine can cause eye migraines in some people, for others sipping a small amount of a caffeinated beverage can stop the symptoms.
It is important to stop driving if you experience any visual effects. If these symptoms last more than an hour, this can be a sign of something more serious, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
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What Does An Ocular Migraine Feel Like
An ocular migraine begins with a sparkling and shimmering area that has a jagged border and that gradually spreads outward. It causes a small blinding spot that enlarges and blocks your vision temporarily. The brightness begins at the edge of your field of vision and gradually spreads to your line of vision. Zigzag lines or stars may also be seen. It is almost like looking through a broken window. Scotoma is the area where vision is disrupted and the whole episode is called a positive aura.
An ocular migraine is often referred to differently by different experts. While many call it a visual migraine or a typical aura without headache, the International Headache Society classifies such a migraine as a silent or acephalgic migraine.
Though it seems serious since you lose your vision partially, the condition is usually harmless and will resolve on its own within 2030 minutes without any medical intervention. Complete visual darkness, or a negative aura, is not a symptom of an ocular migraine, but of some other underlying condition that needs to be investigated.2
Apart from visual disturbances, ocular migraines can also interfere with your speech. You may also feel tingling, weakness, or numbness in your hands and legs, experience size or space distortions, or feel confused. All of these, however, are rare.3
About Dr Donald Mccormack
As an ophthalmologist, Dr. McCormack diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, prescribes eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems, and performs a wide range of clinical procedures and more complicated eye surgeries. He has special interests in treatments for dry eyes and glaucoma and has been a principal investigator in numerous clinical research trials for these conditions.
- For an appointment, call
This article is not intended to substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician.
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Causes Of Retinal Migraine
In retinal migraine, only one eye is affected at a time. This type of migraine is associated with a problem with blood vessels in the optic nerve or the eye itself, rather than the occipital cortex. A constriction of blood flow in the central retinal artery may cause the condition. There is also speculation that the condition is caused by a spreading depression in neurons in the retina. This phenomenon resembles a cortical spreading depression but is more localized.
Symptoms Of Retinal Migraine
The symptoms of retinal migraine may include:
- partial or total loss of vision in 1 eye this usually lasts 10 to 20 minutes before vision gradually returns
- headache this may happen before, during or after the vision attack
It’s unusual for an episode of vision loss to last longer than an hour. The same eye is affected every time in almost all cases.
Vision may slowly become blurred or dimmed, or there may be flashes of light. Some people see a mosaic-like pattern of blank spots , which enlarge to cause total loss of vision.
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Ocular Migraines: Symptoms Causes And Treatment
Ocular migraines are non-permanent, visual disturbances that can have an effect on either one or both of your eyes. Such migraines are usually painless and will sometimes lead to blindness in one eye for a short time usually less than an hour. It is a rare problem, and researchers suggest that its symptoms will manifest as a result of other issues.
However, regular ocular migraine attacks can lead to other vision problems referred to as an aura, which involves flashing lights and blind spots. Other terms that are used to describe ocular migraines include eye migraines, ophthalmic migraines, or retinal migraines. This type of a migraine can interfere with your ability to perform specific functions such as driving, reading, and writing.
Causes Of An Ocular Migraine
Although doctors dont know the exact causes of an ocular migraine, there is some indication that it might be the result of spasms in the blood vessels that flow through the retina . The effect causes changes which spread across nerve cells. This is a rare condition, but because of the danger of permanent vision loss in one eye, it is important for sufferers to talk to their family physician for solutions.
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Deterrence And Patient Education
It is critical to educate the patients about the red flags of vision loss. A visual loss that patients describe as darkness requires immediate medical attention and an emergency room visit. Patients must understand that this could be a sign of a stroke or an irreversible eye condition. Visual changes that are more consistent with migraine phenomenon are usually positive such as flashing light. Patients must also be taught that those could come without a headache or any pain. Preventive therapy is important to reduce the frequency of attacks and severity and must be taken on a daily basis.
Treating And Coping With Migraine
Migraine can be debilitating and impact your quality of life. If youre experiencing blind spots or vision disturbances, for example, you will want to wait until they pass before driving.
Ocular migraine will typically go away with time. You should rest and avoid triggers such as bright lights until the vision disturbances are gone.
There are both over-the-counter treatments and prescription medications that you can use to treat recurring migraine flares. Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or Excedrin Migraine may also help reduce the symptoms.
Other medications that may help you manage ocular migraine include:
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Join A Supportive Community
At MyMigraineTeam, you can join a community of more than 65,000 people who are sharing experiences with migraine. More than 17,000 members have reported having migraine with aura, and another 5,800 members report having retinal migraine. Ask questions, share tips, and learn how others are managing ocular migraine.
Add your comment below, or go to MyMigraineTeam now and start a new conversation today.
What Are Migraine Treatments
Most ocular and retinal migraines dont require treatment. They will go away on their own. It helps to rest and avoid triggers such as loud noises or bright lights.
If ocular or retinal migraines occur frequently, your eye doctor may suggest medications, including those used to treat other forms of migraines. Beta blockers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants sometimes are helpful, although more research is needed to determine the most effective treatments.
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What Is Ocular Migraine
Ocular migraine is described as very severe and unilateral pain in the eye which feels like it is being carved out and going to pop out of its socket. In fact, there is no form of migraine such as ocular migraine but patients describe this symptom. Migraine which affects the eye is a common condition. Migraine attacks which are usually unilateral, affect both temples and eyes. Due to the expansion of the eye and the surrounding veins, edema occurs. Enlarged veins cause throbbing. Because of a severe interruption in the working of the nervous system in the painful area, oxygenation of the tissue also deteriorates. As a result of all these negative developments, throbbing pain occurs.
Redness, swelling and watering of the eye are accompanied by light sensitivity in the majority of attacks considered as ocular migraine. Patient is unable to open his eye. Changes in the painful side are observable for the people around the patient.