Ocular Migraines

Ocular Migraines

Woman holding her hands over her face

Headaches are a common ailment that will affect nearly everyone at some point in their lives. Most headaches are painful but harmless, and they often go away with no treatment. But some headaches can be severe. These are usually called migraines, and they can be debilitating. Migraines can have many causes and symptoms. In this blog, we’ll discuss ocular migraines which can cause pain and affect your eyesight. 

What is Ocular Migraine?

The term Ocular Migraine may refer to two different conditions: 

  1. Retinal Migraine is a relatively rare  eye condition that occurs in only one eye. It may be accompanied by a headache that can occur before, during, or after visual symptoms. During an ocular migraine, one eye may have symptoms such as decreased vision, flashing lights, eye pain, or temporary blindness. These symptoms usually last less than 30 minutes.
  2. Migraine Aura is a more common condition that occurs in both eyes. It may or may not be accompanied by a headache. During Migraine Aura, visual symptoms such as wavy lines, flashes of light, or blind spots may occur in both eyes. These symptoms usually last less than 30 minutes. 

These symptoms are also associated with other serious eye problems, so call your eye doctor immediately if they occur. 

What causes Ocular Migraine?

Scientists aren’t sure exactly what causes Ocular Migraines, but common theories include:

  • The sudden decrease of blood flow to vessels in the back of the eye 
  • Changes in nerve cell activity in the brain. 

There are many factors that can trigger an ocular migraine. These triggers may be different for everyone who experiences ocular migraines, but common triggers include:

  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Hormonal changes
  • High Altitude
  • Exercise
  • Environmental factors
  • Certain foods and drinks

How are Ocular Migraines treated?

Your doctor may recommend several treatments for retinal migraines. These treatments include:

  • Over the counter medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Prescription medications
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Avoiding triggers

Are Ocular Migraines Dangerous?

People who experience Retinal Migraines may be at increased risk for permanent vision loss as a result of decreased blood flow to the eye. It is important to see an eye doctor annually to look for changes and monitor the health of your eyes. Retinal Migraines may also cause temporary loss of vision while you are driving or doing other activities. If you experience these symptoms while driving or during activity, it is important to stop and rest in a safe place until symptoms subside. 

Migraine Aura is not generally considered a serious condition, however people who experience Ocular Migraines may be at increased risk for stroke. This risk is higher in women, especially those who use hormonal birth control, and people who smoke. 

Is Retinal Migraine the same thing as Visual Migraine?

No. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they refer to different conditions. Visual Migraine is another term for Migraine Aura. This condition usually occurs in both eyes. It may occur with or without a headache. Most Migraine Aura episodes involve visual symptoms such as:

  • Zigzag patterns or wavy lines in vision
  • Flashes of light
  • Blind spots in your vision
  • Seeing spots or stars

Migraine Aura is generally not considered a serious condition, although it may interfere with day to day activities.

Migraines can be painful and incapacitating, but are not usually dangerous. If you are experiencing visual symptoms or changes, it is important to call your eye doctor. Visual symptoms may be caused by serious conditions that require immediate medical care. To schedule an appointment with an eye doctor, call or text (907) 328-2920. 

Written By: Gina Stafford COA, LDO, ABOC

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

Posted in: Uncategorized

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