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What Is an Ocular Migraine?

Ocular migraines can be alarming if you don’t know what they are and suddenly get one for the first time.

If you’ve ever noticed a patch of bright, shimmering light that gradually widens until it fills your entire field of vision, you might have had an ocular migraine. When we hear the word “migraine,” we tend to think it’s about headaches, but this particular type of migraine doesn’t always have anything to do with pain.

Different Types of Visual Migraines

While ocular migraines on their own are usually temporary and not serious, they do come in three different types.

Painless Ocular Migraine

Sometimes, ocular migraines happen without headaches. They won’t look exactly the same for everyone. Some people may see psychedelic images, others see flashing or shimmering lights, and others see stars or zigzagging lines. The effect begins small but soon spreads and obscures the field of vision in both eyes, then clears on its own.

The visual effects may be the only symptoms, but sometimes motor function or speech is also temporarily affected. While these types of ocular migraines are not considered serious, they do briefly interfere with ordinary activities, such as driving, reading, or writing. If one comes on while you’re on the road, pull off to the side until it passes. Typically it lasts between thirty minutes and an hour.

Migraine with Aura

A fifth of people who suffer migraine headaches also experience ocular migraines, sometimes as a warning symptom that the headache is on its way. If you’ve experienced visual distortions before headaches, make sure to discuss it with your doctor. It is sometimes possible to reduce the frequency of migraines by avoiding triggers like eating certain foods, exposure to sudden bright light, and stress. Other triggers can include smoking and oral contraceptives.

Retinal Migraine

The third and potentially more dangerous form of ocular migraine is a retinal migraine. While ocular migraines affect both eyes, retinal migraines will only affect one, though they may also precede a migraine headache just like in the case of a migraine with aura.

This is the rarest type of ocular migraine. It happens when the blood vessels in the retina constrict, reducing the blood flow to the eye. Long-term damage to the eye is rare, and a retinal migraine may only happen once every few months, but it’s a good idea to consult with the eye doctor to make sure it isn’t connected to another condition.

Getting Ocular Migraines? Let Us Know!

Any time you experience something strange or worrying with your vision, it’s a good time to schedule an eye appointment, even if it seems like it might be temporary and harmless. If you’d simply like to learn more about ocular migraines, we’d be happy to give you more information, so call us up or send us an email!

We love being your partner in vision health!

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.