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Home » What’s New » Recognizing Ocular Migraines

Recognizing Ocular Migraines

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Have you ever noticed a sliver of shimmering light or zigzagging lines that widened until they  completely filled your field of vision?

If so, you may have suffered from an ocular migraine — a migraine that involves visual disturbance. Ocular migraines are usually nothing to be concerned about, but for someone who hasn't had one before, they can be unsettling. Since ocular migraines aren't necessarily associated with unpleasant headaches, the term ‘migraine’ can be misleading.

Types of Ocular Migraines

Most ocular migraines come on quickly and disappear quickly. However, they can sometimes be disabling, affecting your lifestyle and, depending on the type, can signal more serious health issues.

Migraine With Aura

Ocular migraines may occur in 1 out of every 5 people who suffer from standard migraine headaches, and appear as a warning sign that a full migraine is about to occur. Any visual distortions you may experience before a headache should be described to your doctor. Some people find that avoiding migraine triggers such as stress, bright light and particular foods reduces the frequency of their migraines.

Painless Ocular Migraine

This strange visual phenomenon occurs without the usual headache, and it can manifest differently in various people. Some individuals may see flashing or shimmering lights, while others may perceive psychedelic images or zigzagging lines or stars. Regardless of how it appears, it usually starts as a minor visual distortion that quickly spreads across your visual field until it entirely obscures your vision before eventually dissipating.

While painless ocular migraines don't cause headaches, they sometimes cause other symptoms, like a momentary loss of speech or motor function. They may not signal a major medical problem, but they can make it difficult to do things like drive, read or write.

Retinal Migraine

The third and most uncommon type of ocular migraine is the most dangerous. Retinal migraines may cause brief attacks of blindness or visual problems like flashing lights in one eye. Retinal migraines are different from other types of migraines in that they only affect one eye (though they can still precede a full migraine headache). Retinal migraines occur when the arteries in the retina (the nerve layer at the back of the eye) contract, reducing blood supply to the eye. An insufficient supply of blood to the eye can cause vision loss.

Retinal migraines may occur only once every few months. However, they represent a serious eye condition, so be sure to tell your eye doctor about your symptoms to determine whether they are caused by a serious health problem.

If you think you’ve experienced a form of ocular migraine, schedule an appointment with Vision MD Eye Doctors in Glenn Dale. We’re here to answer your questions about ocular migraines and all areas related to vision and eye health.

At Vision MD Eye Doctors, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 301-779-0844 or book an appointment online to see one of our Glenn Dale eye doctors.

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Q&A

How long does an ocular migraine last?

An ocular migraine typically lasts less than 60 minutes.

How are ocular migraines treated?

Migraine medications work best when given at the first sign of an impending migraine, or as soon as the signs and symptoms of ocular migraines appear. Treatment will depend on the type of ocular migraine and its severity.