Ocular migraines can be confusing because they don’t follow one single set of symptoms. Instead, ocular migraine is a broad term that refers to any migraine that involves some type of visual disturbance. These visual disturbances may include temporary vision loss, blind spots, auras, flashing lights, seeing stars, zig- zagging lines, and even psychedelic images. These visual disturbances are alarming—especially upon the first manifestation—but ocular migraines tend to go away after an hour or less in most patients.
Ocular Migraines versus Retinal Migraines: Is There a Difference?
One of the biggest points of confusion concerning ocular migraines is whether they are the same thing as retinal migraines. In most cases, these conditions are referred to separately and are distinct. Most ocular migraines include some sort of “aura”—be it a blind spot, a sensation of seeing shimmering lights, or other odd visual disturbances.
Retinal migraines typically occur in one eye after the onset of a migraine headache. A retinal migraine may result in the patient seeing twinkling lights or other auras similar to ocular migraine symptoms.
However, retinal migraines more often result in severely decreased vision, even sometimes causing temporary blindness in one eye. Retinal migraines are much rarer than ocular migraines and much more serious. If you experience this type of severe vision loss in one eye during a migraine attack, you should consult an eye doctor immediately. Retinal migraines can sometimes result in permanent vision loss, so it’s important not to ignore the issue.
The Causes of Ocular Migraines
Another frustration with ocular migraines is even experts aren’t totally sure what causes them. Some health professionals think ocular migraines have the same basic cause as regular migraines: someone whose parents and family members have struggled with migraines is more likely to experience ocular migraines. More specifically, ocular migraines could have to do with spasms in the blood vessels of the retina or unusual electrical activity throughout the cortex of the brain.
Regardless of the specific genetic or chemical causes of ocular migraines, health professionals do have a better idea of what triggers these occurrences. As with regular migraines, ocular migraines can be triggered by harsh light or, especially, electronic screens. Someone who spends the whole day looking at a computer screen, for instance, is at higher risk for experiencing ocular migraines than someone whose job does not involve much screen time.
Treating Ocular Migraines
Always seek help from your eye doctor ASAP if you believe your ocular migraine is a retinal migraine.
Symptoms that impact one eye are red flags as is any bout of significant vision loss. Even if ocular migraines are brief and not terribly disruptive, you should consult your eye doctor if the attacks occur regularly or if you notice them occurring more frequently.
When in doubt, a visit to the eye doctor can help you to determine if there is a serious underlying condition causing your ocular migraines. Your eye doctor might be able to prescribe medications that will help with the attacks. Often, simple over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen can make a difference. Resting your eyes, taking some time away from screens, getting out of harsh sunlight, and putting a warm, damp cloth over your eyes can bring relief.
If you want to speak with an optometry professional about your ocular migraines, feel free to give us a
call at Miami Contact Lens Institute or Weston Contact Lens institute. We can get you in for an
appointment and help you determine what might be triggering your attacks.