What Is A Visual Migraine
Visual migraines can mimic other serious conditions, making it very important to see an eye doctor as soon as possible if you experience any sudden vision loss or changes to your vision.
A visual migraine, also known as an ocular migraine, causes temporary visual disturbance. This disturbance often appears suddenly and may create a blind spot moving across the visual field or the sensation of looking through a cracked window.
There are two types of ocular migraines:
- migraine auras
Migraine auras are very common, affecting 1 in 5 migraine sufferers.
Migraine auras cause binocular visual distortions, affecting both eyes simultaneously. They may also cause:
- Numbness or tingling
- Mental fog
- Changes in taste, smell, or sense of touch.
An aura can occur with or without a migraine, and may sometimes precede a headache. The visual distortions are temporary and usually last around 30 minutes. They can impact performance in certain activities, such as driving and reading.
The most common visual symptoms of migraine auras include:
- Flashes of light
Types Of Migraine Auras Visualized And Explained
Even if no headache is involved, silent migraines can be extremely disruptive to daily activities. The classic “half-moon” visual disturbance , alterations in color perception, and other vision problems are also common.
A silent migraine can last from 15 to 30 minutes, but it is usually no longer than 60 minutes. It can recur or appear as an isolated event.
How Do You Know If Youre Having A Migraine Attack
People with migraine often have different symptoms, as the presentation of migraine can vary from person to person. But if your head pain is moderate to severe, lasts several hours, causes a throbbing or pounding sensation, gets worse with physical movement and interferes with your life, work or school activities, you may be experiencing migraine. The head pain can be on one or both sides of your head, in the front or back. It can also be in or around your eyes or behind your cheeks.
Migraine can also cause nausea and/or vomiting and increase your sensitivity to light, smells and noise. Some people experience migraine with aura, a visual disturbance that typically occurs before the headache pain begins and resolves within an hour or less.
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Is Retinal Migraine Dangerous
Most often, a retinal migraine attacks will subside after a short time with no lasting harm, though it can affect your ability to drive safely.
Still, its worth discussing with your doctor and potentially getting an eye examination to look into potential causes and rule out more serious concerns, such as a stroke in the eye.
If its never happened before, losing vision in both eyes at the same time may also be a sign of a more serious problem.
Your head may start to hurt at the same time a retinal migraine affects your vision or up to 1 hour later, or you may not experience a headache at all.
The same is true for the more common migraine with aura.
Retinal migraine is considered relatively rare. Its more common for a different type of migraine to affect vision in both eyes, not just one.
Older research from 2005 puts the frequency at about
When Should You Worry About An Ocular Migraine
Although the symptoms of ocular migraines can be frightening, the condition is harmless and short-lived in most cases. However, ocular migraines can indicate serious health problems, such as increased risk for stroke or severe carotid artery disease.
Its essential to see an eye doctor when you lose your eyesight suddenly for the first time or if your eyesight deteriorates to check for any serious conditions.
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How Is Retinal Migraine Diagnosed
There arent any specific tests to diagnose a retinal migraine.
If you see a doctor or optometrist during a retinal migraine attack, they may use a tool called an ophthalmoscope to check for decreased blood flow to your eye, but this generally isnt feasible because attacks are usually brief.
Doctors typically diagnose a retinal migraine by investigating the symptoms, conducting a general examination, and reviewing a personal and family medical history.
Retinal migraine is usually diagnosed by a process of exclusion, meaning that symptoms such as transient blindness cant be explained by other serious eye diseases or conditions.
If you need help finding a primary care doctor or optometrist, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
What Is Visual Disturbance
Visual disturbance is when you experience a short spell of flashing or shimmering of light in your sight. The symptoms normally last around twenty minutes before your sight returns to normal. Usually, there is no headache during the visual disturbance. A visual disturbance should not be confused with a retinal or ocular migraine where there is a partial or total loss of vision in one eye, normally with a headache.
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How Is Migraine Aura Diagnosed
To rule out more serious conditions, such as a transient ischemic attack or mini stroke, your healthcare provider will perform a physical examination. They may also run certain tests to confirm your diagnosis. These tests may include:
- An eye exam. This test helps rule out any eye conditions that could be causing aura symptoms.
- A CT scan of your head. This scan takes detailed images of your brain.
- Magnetic resonance imaging . This test uses magnets and radio waves to capture images of your tissues, organs and structures inside of your body.
How To Find Relief
There isnt one right way to treat a migraine. If your migraines are infrequent, you may be able to use over-the-counter medications to treat symptoms as they occur.
If your symptoms are chronic or severe, OTC treatments may not be helpful. Your doctor may be able to prescribe stronger medication to treat existing symptoms and help prevent future migraines.
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What Are The Four Stages Of Migraines
The various four stages of migraines include:
- Prodrome: Also known as the preheadache stage, it precedes a migraine attack. It can last for several hours or several days. During this phase, taking medication, practicing a stress-relieving technique, or avoiding trigger factors can prevent a migraine attack. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Changes in mood
Ocular Migraine Vs Retinal Migraine
The terms ocular migraine and retinal migraine are often used to mean the same thing. But to be precise, a retinal migraine is a rare type of ocular migraine.
Its also worth differentiating the term visual migraine, in which the migraine affects an area of the brain that involves vision. This may result in aura affecting sight in both eyes, not just one.
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How To Shorten Your Migraine Attack
If you recognize the signs that a migraine attack may be coming on, you may be able to reduce the amount of time it lasts, says Spears. Often the person with migraine doesnt always recognize the prodrome phase, but someone close to them a spouse or family member may pick up on it, he says.
Spears offers a few tips to potentially reduce the length of your migraine attack:
- Aggressively hydrate. Drinking a lot of water is usually helpful.
- Limit your physical activity. If possible, sit or lie down somewhere.
- Avoid stimulating environments. Go to a dark, quiet place.
Some people find that relaxation techniques, such as meditation or massage, will help release the tension they feel in their face, jaw, or neck. If you can release tension with these techniques, your migraine attack may not be as severe or last as long. Others find that putting a cold compress on their temples will help relieve their migraine symptoms and keep their migraine from lasting as long, Mauskop says.
Headaches Behind The Eye Or Ocular Migraines
Its important not to confuse ocular migraines with generalised headaches behind the eye. Ocular migraines happen as a result of reduced blood flow to the eye, due to a sudden narrowing of the blood vessels, and usually occur in just one eye.
On the other hand, headaches behind the eyes are usually a symptom of traditional headache-type migraines, which can be caused by a number of conditions and external stimuli. Sensitivity to bright light , some prescription medications or simply staring at digital screens for too long can all lead to migraines and headaches behind the eyes.
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How Long Does A Migraine Attack Last
Time is an important factor when it comes to migraine management. Find out how to recognize a migraine attack and when to take action.
When a migraine attack starts, you might have a lot of questions about what is happening, how long it will last and how you can treat your symptoms. Understanding the timing involved in a migraine attackspecifically the headache phasewill go a long way in helping you manage your migraine and knowing when to take action.
What Is A Migraine Aura
Migraine aura is considered a warning stage that sometimes occurs before the onset of a migraine headache. Migraine aura refers to any number of sensory disturbances, including dots, sparks or zigzags in your vision. Some people experience tinnitus, dizziness or even the inability to speak clearly.
This condition may occur prior to or during a migraine attack usually 30 to 60 minutes prior to the head pain. It’s important to note that migraine aura doesn’t happen during every migraine episode.
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What Are The Visual Changes Of Migraine
Changes in sight usually occur in both eyes, but sometimes in only part of the visual field.1 There are three general types of visual changes with migraine:1
- Positive symptoms: This describes seeing something that is not really there, like shimmery zig-zag lines, sparkles, dots, or flashes.
- Negative symptoms: This describes blind spots or tunnel vision.
- Distorted or altered visual symptoms: This describes a sense of looking through water or colorful, cracked glass. Objects may appear too big or too small.
Ocular migraine is a medical term for a migraine that includes visual distortions.2 Ocular means connected to the eye. An ocular migraine may be classed as migraine with aura or retinal migraine. In retinal migraine, changes in vision only happen in 1 eye before or during the painful part of a migraine attack.2
How Is An Ocular Migraine Diagnosed
Ocular migraine is diagnosed with a patient history, physical examination, and other tests such as:
- Eye screening test
- Patient sits in a chair in a room with the lights out
- A doctor looks through the lenses of the ophthalmoscope to examine the eyes
- Patient may be asked to look in various directions during the examination
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What Are The Acute Treatments For Migraine
An isolated visual migraine, without headache, typically does not require any acute treatment, since the visual symptoms resolve on their own fairly quickly. The first few times someone experiences a visual migraine it usually causes a lot of anxiety. Once someone has become familiar with the symptoms of a visual migraine, new episodes no longer cause the same level of anxiety.
It can be helpful to try to rest during the episode. Some patients benefit from other strategies, including eating something, having caffeine, or taking an over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen .
Patients in whom the visual symptoms are accompanied by a severe headache often benefit from additional therapies. The goal of these medications is to try to cut short the headache before it becomes too severe. Some patients find naproxen , which is a stronger anti-inflammatory medication, to be helpful. Other patients try a class of medications known as triptans.
Triptans are specially designed to work on receptors on blood vessels and brain cells in order to halt a migraine at an early stage. Although there are a number of different triptans, made by several different pharmaceutical companies, each of these is approximately equally effective. Triptans are often taken orally, but also come as injections and nasal sprays. These medicines are generally not considered safe in patients with a history of strokes, heart attacks, or other vascular diseases.
Treatments For Migraine Episodes
To relieve a migraine episode, doctors use acute treatment medications, which may include:
- calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor antagonists, such as rimegepant and ubrogepant
- ergotamine drugs, such as dihydroergotamine
- pain relievers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- selective serotonin receptor agonists, such as Lasmiditan , rizatriptan , sumatriptan , and zolmitriptan
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Whats The Difference Between Ocular And Visual Migraines
February 28, 2022 by Dr. Richard Snively
Migraines are headaches with a pulsing sensation that typically occur in one side of the head. A migraine can happen along with other symptoms like light and sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can last for a few hours up to days. Sometimes, the pain makes it difficult for sufferers to go on with their day.
Two types of migraines, visual and ocular, can affect your vision. Read on to learn about the difference between them.
Are Ocular Migraines Harmful
In general, ocular migraines are not considered harmful. Most people have no symptoms other than blindness or blind spots. Neither retinal migraines nor full ocular migraines are, in and of themselves, harmful. However, in some cases, retinal or ocular migraines may be a sign of a more serious problem. If you have a retinal or ocular migraine, its important to consult with a doctor as soon as possible to undergo an evaluation and ensure your symptoms dont signal a larger problem.
Most of the time, ocular migraines are not caused by actual visual symptoms nor is their trigger within the eye. Instead, they are caused by migraine activity within the visual cortex of the brain.
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What Causes Ocular Migraine
Migraine aura is considered to be a result of abnormal electrical activity involving certain regions of the cortex of the brain. This abnormal activity spreads across the cortex at a slow rate of about 3mm per minute and this spread is responsible for the growth and movement of the visual disturbance over the 20-60 minutes that the visual aura lasts. Retinal migraine may be due to the same type of disturbance except occurring at the back of the eye in the retina, or it may be due to a reduction in blood flow to the retina.
Like other types of migraine, harsh lights and electronic screens can be triggers. Straining your eyes by staring at a screen for long periods of time, spending time in fluorescent or other harsh lighting, driving long distances and other taxing visual activities can increase your risk for attacks. Talk to your eye doctor about how to avoid attacks.
What To Expect After Symptoms Of Aura And Headache
Many migraine headaches gradually fade in intensity. Some people find that taking a 1- to 2-hour nap is enough to relieve their symptoms. Children may only need a few minutes rest to see results. This is known as the resolution phase.
As the headache begins to lift, you may experience the recovery phase. This can include a feeling of exhaustion or even of elation. You may also feel moody, dizzy, confused, or weak.
In many cases, your symptoms during the recovery phase will pair with symptoms you experienced during the warning phase. For example, if you lost your appetite during the warning phase you may now find that youre ravenous.
These symptoms may last for a day or two after your headache.
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What Causes Ocular And Visual Migraines
Currently, there is limited research on what causes ocular and visual migraines.
Although studies have shown a change in blood flow into the eye during ocular migraines,the exact cause of this change remains unclear.
However, scientists sometimes associate the condition with genetics, meaning it may run in the family.
According to research, up to 70% of migraine patients have a personal or family history of migraine.2
Migraine triggers play a vital role in the onset and frequency of migraines.
Common migraine triggers include:3
What Are Migraine Treatments
Most ocular and retinal migraines dont require treatment. They will go away on their own. It helps to rest and avoid triggers such as loud noises or bright lights.
If ocular or retinal migraines occur frequently, your eye doctor may suggest medications, including those used to treat other forms of migraines. Beta blockers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants sometimes are helpful, although more research is needed to determine the most effective treatments.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Visual Disturbance
- Flashes of light
- These may start in the periphery of your sight, and become larger and more central
- They may be black and white or brightly coloured
- Typically described as a zigzagging pattern, or giving the appearance of shards of glass
- They may be apparent when your eyes are shut
- The disturbance affects your sight and both eyes are affected.