When it comes to migraines, not all headaches are created the same. According to Joey Gee, D.O., neurologist with Providence Mission Hospital, approximately 15 to 25% of migraine sufferers will experience consistent ocular migraine attacks.
“If you have a family history of migraines, you are more likely to experience ocular migraines,” he says, adding that these types of migraines are more common in women than men, and occur mostly when patients are between the ages of 30 and 39. But what are the symptoms of an ocular migraine and how can you treat the condition? Ahead, experts weigh in on everything you need to know about the migraines that affect your vision.
Wait, what is an ocular migraine?
An ocular migraine is when a headache causes changes in your vision, according to Dr. Gee. “There are two types of ocular migraines: a migraine with aura and retinal migraines,” he says.
Retinal migraines differ from aura migraines because they will only occur in one eye, whereas aura migraines may present in both. Dr. Gee says that it’s important to understand that these types of migraines originate in the brain, and you may experience the vision changes without actually feeling the tell-tale head pain that comes along with a typical migraine.
What does an ocular migraine look and feel like?
Ocular migraine symptoms may present with a few different types of vision changes. Migraine with visual aura is typically bilateral (affecting both sides) and simultaneous and often characterized by a jagged line (fortification scotoma) that moves across the visual field slowly (“march and build up”). It is then often followed 15 to 20 minutes later by the typical migraine headache, according to Andrew Lee, M.D., chair of the department of ophthalmology at Houston Methodist. “Sometimes the visual effect is described as colored or flashing (scintillating),” he says.
Dr. Lee says that “ocular migraine” is not a true diagnosis in the International Headache Society classification of migraine with aura, but it can be used to describe the temporary vision change, either negative or positive, in a single eye.“Most of these so-called ‘ocular migraines’ are actually retinal vasospasm [the narrowing of blood vessels] and not true migraine headaches.”
Ocular migraine symptoms
According to Dr. Gee and the American Optometric Association, ocular migraine symptoms include:
Vision problems affecting one eye
Seeing flashing lights or jagged line
Blind spot in vision that can often grow larger
In addition to vision changes, ocular migraines can also come along with some other more traditional migraine symptoms according to Dr. Gee:
Sensitivity to light or sound
What causes ocular migraines?
While Dr. Gee says that the experts aren’t really sure what causes ocular migraines, they have a few theories.
Changes to your retina
Because they largely present with vision changes it’s not surprising that Dr. Gee says the conditions in and around your eye can play a part in bringing these types of attacks on. “According to the National Library of Medicine, the root of why these types of headaches occur might be caused by reduced blood flow or blood vessel spasms in the retina, or the lining behind the eye.”
Too much time spent in front of unnatural light sources could bring about an attack. “You might also trigger a migraine if you are exposed to harsh fluorescent lights or stare at electronic screens which can lead to eye strain,” explains Dr. Gee.
Too much time on the road
In addition to a sensitivity to light, your travel itinerary could also set one of these types of headaches in motion. “Driving long distances without taking several breaks might also trigger an ocular migraine,” shares Dr. Gee.
Treating ocular migraines
Depending on the severity of the migraine, Dr. Gee says that ocular migraine treatment can include over-the-counter pain relievers for mild symptoms or prescription medication for more severe cases. “Your doctor will help to determine the most appropriate care and treatment for these headache attacks.” If migraines run in your family or if you have reoccurring symptoms, Dr. Gee suggests making an appointment with your doctor.
“Reoccurring episodes of ocular migraines can be frightening, but in most cases, they are harmless and short-lived,” he says, adding that your eyesight will typically return to normal after your migraine subsides. “If you have any questions, make sure to contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist for a full evaluation. They will help to determine if you need to see a neurologist for specific care or treatment.”
You Might Also Like