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What Are Symptoms Of Ocular Migraine

You Can Still Take Birth Control

Ocular Migraine Symptoms

If youre a woman who suffers from migraines with aura, you may have heard that theres also an elevated risk of stroke if you take estrogen-based oral contraceptives. However, if you have no other risk factors , a migraine specialist may feel comfortable prescribing these to you. It may also stabilize your estrogen levels to make your migraines better, says Dr. Wall.

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.

Treating Visual And Ocular Migraine Headaches

There are genetic and lifestyle factors that can cause visual and ocular migraines. Most times, these types of migraine headaches will resolve themselves within an hour or less.

However, if the frequency of visual and ocular migraine headache occurrences increases, then you should schedule a consultation with an eye surgeon or primary care doctor. Your doctor may also refer you to a neurologist for further testing.

Treatment options can include prescription medications and lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and so on.

If you are experiencing visual or ocular migraine headaches and want to discuss treatment options, please feel free to contact Dougherty Laser Vision at 312-7671 to schedule a telehealth or in-office consultation today!

We have offices in Westlake Village, Beverly Hills, Camarillo, San Luis Obispo, Encino, and Simi Valley. We offer a wide range of laser eye correction and laser eye surgery services, as well as treatment for cataracts, glaucoma, and other vision-related health conditions.

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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.

What Are The Risk Factors For Retinal Migraine

Ocular Migraine: What You Should Know

Several factors increase the risk of developing retinal migraine. These risk factors are similar to other forms of migraine. Retinal migraines are more common in women. They can begin at any age, but typically start during adolescence and peak during childbearing years. Retinal migraines are also more common in people with a family history of migraine.

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Symptoms Of Retinal Migraine

The symptoms of retinal migraine may include:

  • partial or total loss of vision in 1 eye this usually lasts 10 to 20 minutes before vision gradually returns
  • headache this may happen before, during or after the vision attack

It’s unusual for an episode of vision loss to last longer than an hour. The same eye is affected every time in almost all cases.

Vision may slowly become blurred or dimmed, or there may be flashes of light. Some people see a mosaic-like pattern of blank spots , which enlarge to cause total loss of vision.

You Might Get These Ocular Migraine Symptoms Too

Some people suffer from other symptoms such as dizziness, double vision, nausea, vomiting, sweating or intense eye pain.

Take your medication as soon as possible or see your physician.

It is not uncommon to sleep for a few hours after an ocular migraine. This usually helps quell the left over symptoms and then you typically wake up refreshed and feeling much better.

Ocular migraines are not common and one of the most important things is to attempt to figure out what your triggers actually are and then endeavor to avoid them.

This should help to decrease the frequency of your ocular migraine symptoms and attacks.

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Ocular Migraines And Aura

There are two types of migraines that are referred to as ocular migraines. Some people refer to migraines with auras as ocular migraines.

Some people experience an aura approximately 10 to 30 minutes before a migraine sets in. Aura symptoms can include:

  • numbness or tingling in the hands or face
  • feeling mentally foggy or fuzzy
  • disrupted sense of touch, taste, or smell
  • seeing blind spots, shimmering spots, flashing lights, or zig-zag lines

Not all people with migraines will experience auras.

Ocular migraines may also refer to eye-related migraines that come with visual disturbances that may or may not come with a headache pain. These are known as ophthalmic migraines. Ocular migraines can include some or all of the aura symptoms listed above. Ocular migraines are typically the result of migraine activity in the visual cortex of the brain.

Complications Of Ocular Migraine

Eye Health & Optometry : Strange Ocular Migraine Symptoms

Any problems in vision should immediately be reported to a physician. The symptoms of ocular migraine should be investigated fully in order to determine that there is no other disease or condition present.

People who experience ocular migraines may be at risk for permanent vision loss. Patients should follow up with their physician on a regular basis and discuss any changes in their symptoms or their headaches.

  • Doyle, E., Vote, B. J., Casswell, A. G. . Retinal migraine: caught in the act Br J Ophthalmol. 88, 301302. doi: 10.1136/bjo.2003.021808 Retrieved from
  • Gan KD, Mouradian MS, Weis E, Lewis JR. . Transient monocular visual loss and retinal migraine. CMAJ.6 173, 1441-1442.
  • Grosberg, B. M., Solomon, S., Lipton, R. B. . Retinal migraine. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 9, 268-271.
  • International Headache Society. Retinal migraine. Retrieved from:

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Ocular Migraines: Causes Symptoms Treatments And Risks

Ocular migraines cause visual disturbances that are almost always temporary. Although migraines are commonly associated with headaches, an ocular migraine can occur with or without a headache. Visual symptoms with migraine, typically called aura, can be distressing, as many MyMigraineTeam members have shared:

  • Second migraine aura in five hours.
  • Ive had migraines forever, but the aura is getting worse with age
  • I have had three severe migraines in the last couple of weeks. Each one started with an aura of zigzag lines in my right eye.
  • My visual auras affect a big portion of my vision, so doing day-to-day things is difficult .
  • The aura lasts maybe 20 to 30 minutes. Im always afraid that it wont stop!
  • My aura starts from the outside corner of my right eye and travels across to my left eye from the inside corner to the outside corner. I cannot see through the pulsating waves.

Ocular migraines can coincide with various types of migraine, including hemiplegic migraine, cluster headaches, cervicogenic headaches, and chronic migraine. An ocular migraine without head pain can be a warning that a migraine headache will follow. The condition is associated with a greater risk of stroke.

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Treatment Options For Ocular Migraines

Ocular migraine is not well understood, and some treatments are supportive in nature, meant only to help deal with symptoms.

Certain medications can also be helpful in preventing an episode. Triptans, which are sometimes used to treat other types of migraines, are not typically used to treat ocular migraines. Some of the medications that may be used to treat ocular migraine include:

How To Cope With Troublesome Symptoms

Ocular Migraine Symptoms Causes And Risks

I think the best way to cope with some of these symptoms is to rest in a nice dark room with ice packs or a sinus mask on your eyes or a warm wet face cloth. Nice and quiet, calm and peaceful.

Find out if if you get more relief with ice or heat, from your ocular migraine symptoms and use that next time.

Learning what works as you go can be trial and error, but persevere… it is worth experimenting until you find what works.

Listening to a soothing meditation or relaxation CD can help calm you down while you wait for the symptoms to pass.

Migraine Headache Music lists a variety of meditations and relaxing music you can download right now.

How do you cope with your ocular migraine symptoms? Let us know here.

Until next time, be well and be pain free.

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What Type Of Doctor Do You See For Ocular Migraines

If you have ocular migraines, you can see an ophthalmologist oran optometrist.

Optometrists are eye care specialists who offer primary vision care services, including:

  • Vision testing
  • Correction of visual problems
  • Treatment and management of visual issues and eye diseases

On the other hand, ophthalmologists are medical practitioners who specialize in eye and vision care. They differ from optometrists in their degrees of schooling as well as what they can diagnose and cure.

An ophthalmologist is a healthcare professional who has finished college and has at least eight years of further medical studies. He or she is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. Ophthalmologists hold a Doctor of Medicine degree.

Optometrists are healthcare professionals who complete four additional years of school after finishing undergraduate studies. They hold a Doctor of Optometry degree.

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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What Causes Retinal Migraine

Doctors do not have a full understanding of migraines and their cause. Migraine aura is likely the result of changes in electrical activity in the brains cortexor outer layer. Retinal migraine may involve similar disturbances, but at the back of the eye. Reduced blood flow to the retina also likely plays a role in retinal migraine.

The difference in the location of the root cause helps explain the differences between visual auras and retinal migraine. Because the brain is the source of migraine aura, visual changes will affect both eyes. However, the eye is the source of the problem with retinal migraine. So, visual problems will only affect that eye.

Like other forms of migraine, there are likely factors that trigger an attack. Triggers vary from person to person and may include hormonal changes, stress, , low blood sugar, and . Exercise, , excessive heat, and high altitude can be triggers as well.

What Causes Ocular And Visual Migraines

Ocular Migraines

The exact cause of an ocular migraine can be difficult to pinpoint. But it’s believed they occur for the same things that cause migraine headaches.

Migraine headaches have a genetic basis, and some studies say that up to 70% of people who suffer from the disorder have a family history of migraine.

According to the World Health Organization , migraines are caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.

Studies have shown changes in blood flow to the brain during ocular migraines and migraine auras . But exactly why this happens remains unclear.

Common migraine “triggers” that can cause a person to have a migraine attack include:

  • Certain foods

  • Caffeinated drinks

  • Artificial sweeteners

Stress and lack of sleep also can trigger an ocular migraine or visual migraine.

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Do Ocular Migraine Symptoms Persist

Its possible that ocular migraine could persist even after recovery from COVID-19 in some people.

Some people develop headaches that last for months after COVID-19. For example, in one case study, a woman had persistent loss of smell and experienced headaches 80 days after the onset of her symptoms.

She experienced migraine-like headaches during her COVID-19 illness, but she reported that her subsequent headaches felt different.

Researchers are still trying to understand why some people develop long-haul COVID-19 symptoms after recovering from their initial infection. Its possible that increased inflammation and neurological damage play a role.

What Is Ocular Migraine

According to the American Migraine Foundation, about 25 to 30 percent of people with migraine experience aura, and less than 20 percent have it with every attack.

Migraine with aura involves visual distortions that might remind you of looking through a kaleidoscope. It typically affects both eyes. Symptoms can include:

  • sparkling or shimmering spots
  • speech changes

Certain things, like bright or flashing light, can trigger migraine with aura.

An attack usually starts with a small spot that slowly expands. It might dart away when you try to focus on it. You may still see it when you close your eyes.

These can be disturbing, but theyre temporary and not usually harmful.

The attack typically lasts 20 to 30 minutes, after which vision returns to normal.

For some people, this aura is a warning sign that migraine pain and other symptoms will soon hit. Others have aura and pain at the same time.

An attack can also happen by itself, with no pain. This is called acephalgic migraine or silent migraine.

Migraine with aura isnt the same as retinal migraine, which is more serious. Retinal migraine happens in only one eye and can cause temporary blindness or in some cases, irreversible damage.

Having migraine with aura doesnt mean youre having a stroke or that stroke is about to happen. If you have migraine with aura, though, you may be at a higher risk of stroke.

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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.

Ocular Migraines Vs Migraine Headaches

Optical Migraine or Ocular Migraine

Both ocular migraines and traditional migraine headaches are caused when the blood flow is momentarily disrupted. In migraine headaches, this altered blood flow is occurring in the brain, whereas in ocular migraines, its the back of the eye that is receiving disrupted blood flow. The symptoms of an ocular migraine, including visual distortions, may be noticed out of one or both eyes, and can last from a matter of seconds to over thirty minutes. It is not uncommon for an ocular migraine to quickly resolve with no head pain or associated migraine. However, in some unfortunate cases, the visual disturbances of an ocular migraine can precede a traditional migraine. In those cases, symptoms such as a pounding headache, overwhelming nausea, and light sensitivity can arrive about 30 minutes following the visual disturbances of an ocular migraine. If the ocular migraine is associated with an actual migraine headache, the visual disturbances are often referred to as a migraine aura. Many people who regularly suffer migraines have come to recognize migraine auras as a warning sign, and use them as an indication to take prophylactic steps in attempt to prevent a headache migraine.

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What Causes An Ocular Migraine

Doctors believe that ocular migraines have similar causes as migraine headaches. The World Health Organization says that there is also a genetic link to a migraine. Studies show that over 70 percent of people who experience the disorder have a family history of ocular migraines.

Migraines are usually triggered by activation of specific mechanisms deep within the brain which releases numerous inflammatory substances around the blood vessels and the nerves of the brain. However, medical scientists are still unable to determine the primary cause of these changes. Imaging studies have revealed that changes occur in blood flow to the brain during ocular migraines, but experts are yet to establish the underlying cause of these rapid changes.

Statistics also indicate that this condition mostly affects adults who are in their 30s or 40s but they start experiencing the state in their early ages and may pass it down to their children. Women are three times more likely to be affected than male adults.

Migraines have also been linked to hormone estrogen which controls chemicals in the brain that usually affect the sensation of pain. Women tend to experience frequent hormone fluctuations due to the menstrual cycle, menopause, and pregnancy. Hormone levels also tend to be affected by the use of oral contraceptives and other hormone replacement therapies which tend to increase their risk of being attacked by ocular migraines.


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