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What Is A Visual Migraine

Ocular Migraine Treatment Options

For symptoms that are infrequent or less severe, treatment options can range from lifestyle adjustments to over-the-counter medications. Symptoms of migraine aura are generally considered less serious and, while they can certainly be disorienting at the time, are always reversible.

A doctor may work with you to identify triggers of migraine attacks to see if addressing these can decrease or resolve migraine aura. In more serious cases, such as with retinal migraines, your doctor may want to explore additional options to see if these symptoms are a signal of something more serious.

Your neurologist should provide an individualized treatment plan with an emphasis on non-invasive approaches and aiming for a full recovery.

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

How Do You Treat A Vestibular Migraine

Treatment recommendations for vestibular migraines centre on managing your triggers and living a healthy lifestyle. If you know that a lack of sleep or not eating enough trigger your migraines then its important that you create a meal and bed time routine that you can easily follow. Exercising regularly and managing your stress levels can also help to fend off attacks, however if you are having frequent episodes or they are severe then your GP can offer advice. They will be able to prescribe medication to help not only ease the symptoms but also stop the migraines occurring.


Treating And Preventing Migraine With Aura Or Retinal Migraine

For infrequent attacks, medications that target symptoms can be effective, from NSAIDs for pain to anti-nausea medications. Preventative therapies including calcium channel blockers, antiepileptic or tricyclic medications. Quitting smoking is recommended and cessation of oral contraceptives may be advised in certain circumstances. Some options for relief without drugs can include resting your eyes, removing yourself from bright sunlight or other harsh lighting, and taking a break from looking at a screen. As with all types of migraine, try to avoid triggers like stress, dehydration, high altitude, low blood sugar, excessive heat and extensive time spent staring at a screen.

While the symptoms can be disorienting and distressing, they are often short-lived, and almost always reversible. Take some time away from triggers and wait for the symptoms to fade. For more information, visit the American Migraine Foundations resource center, which includes content specifically related to Migraine with Aura, Retinal Migraine and more. The American Migraine Foundation is committed to providing comfort and information to people living with this disease. You are not alone: find your support network today.

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How To Treat It

Ocular Migraines: Risks, Symptoms, and Treatment

As mentioned earlier, the discomfort and problems that occur with ocular migraines usually pass within an hour. If the problem appears while you are performing tasks that require you to have clear vision then stop what you are doing and relax until it passes. Especially if you are driving stop your vehicle as soon and safe as possible and wait for your vision to get back to normal. Visit a professional in order to get your eyes properly checked and your doctor will help you and prescribe you medicines for treating and preventing any future occurrences. Try to remember what were you doing and ate, around the time the condition appeared, as in this way you may be able to find out more easily what exactly triggers your migraines. Many times the migraines can be stress-related, so a healthy way to prevent this from happening is eating a balanced and healthy diet, getting enough sleep and relaxing once in a while.

Link Between Visual Migraine And Stroke

According to the Stroke Association, a person who experiences migraine with aura is twice as likely to have an ischemic stroke in their lifetime. However, the overall risk is still low. A person is more likely to experience a stroke due to other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and smoking.

One 2017 review suggests that young females who experience migraine with aura may have a higher risk of having a stroke and recommends that they stop smoking to reduce this risk. Also, if they are using birth control, they should ensure that it has low estrogen levels.

Additionally, the researchers behind a

Treating And Coping With Migraines

Even if the migraines exist alone and are not a symptom of an underlying condition, they can still be debilitating and impact your life. If youre experiencing blind spots or vision disturbances, for example, you will want to wait until they pass before driving.

Ocular migraines will typically go away on their own within 30 minutes. You should rest and avoid triggers such as bright lights until the vision disturbances are gone.

There are both over the counter treatments and prescription medications that can be used to treat recurring migraines. Over-the-counter drugs like or can be used to reduce the symptoms of a migraine once you already have them. Your doctor can prescribe you:

Some of these prescription medications will be taken on a regular basis instead of an as-needed basis when you get the migraines.

If youre experiencing ocular migraine pain, you can:

  • lie down or sit in a dark, quiet room
  • massage your scalp with a lot of pressure
  • put pressure on your temples
  • put a damp towel over your forehead

Ocular Migraine Treatment And Prevention

Because they generally are harmless and typically resolve on their own within a half hour, ocular migraines usually require no treatment.

If you are performing tasks that require good vision when an ocular migraine occurs, stop what you are doing and relax until the visual disturbance passes. If you are driving, pull off to the side of the road as soon as you can safely do so, and wait for your vision to return to normal.

There is no test to confirm the diagnosis of ocular migraine. Nonetheless, whenever you are experiencing unusual visual symptoms such as those described here, it is recommended that you undergo a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor. This is important so as to rule out sight-threatening conditions such as a retinal tear or detachment, which require urgent attention and/or treatment. Rarely, ocular migraine symptoms can also be associated with stroke.

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What Are The Symptoms Of An Ocular Migraine

In most cases the same eye is affected each time that you experience an ocular migraine, however symptoms can differ slightly.

Symptoms of a retinal migraine can include:

  • A headache that happens before, during or after the change in your vision occurs, this may be felt behind the eye that is experiencing the vision disruption
  • Visual changes such as flashing lights, zig zag patterns, diagonal lines or halos
  • Temporary visual loss in one eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Blank areas and black dots within your vision

Many people can have ocular migraines without experiencing any pain behind their eyes or a headache. However if you do experience a headache this can be felt at any time before, during or after the change in your vision occurs. You might find that the headache also occurs behind the left or right eye depending on which one is having vision issues.

How Are Visual Migraines Treated

Migraine auras typically disappear on their own within 30 minutes. If you have an accompanying headache, it is best to take a pain reliever before the headache worsens. In the meantime, during an episode of a migraine aura, try to just relax and close your eyes until the aura passes.

Retinal migraines may be caused by a more serious condition, and should be treated right away.

Seek emergency medical care if you experience a retinal migraine, or any type of vision loss.

Living With Vestibular Migraine

Many people may find that lying down in a dark room or sleeping can help reduce migraine symptoms.

Taking over-the-counter pain or nausea-relief medication at the first sign of symptoms may also reduce the severity of the symptoms.

People who have vestibular migraine may experience periods in life with fewer occurrences, and other periods when there are more.

When symptoms happen with high frequency, it can impact a persons ability to live their day-to-day life. This may include a negative impact on a persons career, education, and relationships with family and friends.

Living with the condition can be isolating and discouraging. In addition to exploring treatments, looking for support from peers with the condition may also help.

Diet Nutrition & Lifestyle Choices

Evidence is beginning to support the idea that migraine headaches are associated with mitochondria dysfunction. Supplements such as riboflavin , coenzyme Q10, magnesium3, niacin, carnitine, and lipoic acid, which support mitochondrial function, have been shown to help alleviate migraine headaches.2

  • Be sure to also read our lifestyle recommendations for migraine headaches.
  • See our essential visionwellness tips for this eye condition.
  • Stress. Manage stress – meditate, take cool walks in the morning, do yoga … whatever works well for you.
  • Computer. Avoid long hours on the computer and take frequent breaks.
  • Exercise regularly, at least 3x weekly. Exercise reduces the amount of pain from migraines although it does not directlystop migraines by itself.
  • Pay attention to what you eat in the event that the ocular migraines are tied to an allergy.
  • Sleep routine. Wake up at the same time each morning, and get plenty of sleep at night
  • Finally, acupuncture is worth considering.

What Causes Visual Migraines

What are ocular migraines? Learn about the causes ...

While the exact cause of visual migraines are still uncertain, some researchers believe that they are caused by spasms or changes in the retinal blood vessels or nerves.

However, most doctors believe that they are caused by the same factors that lead to the classic migraine, including:

  • Family history of migraines
  • Foods containing nitrates, MSG, or tyramine

What Causes A Migraine

Although migraines are extremely common, their exact cause remains unknown. It appears likely that the visual aura relates to a phenomenon called cortical spreading depression which temporarily affects electrical impulses in the brain. The pain of a migraine headache probably relates to spasm or irritability of blood vessels in the brain, which are sensitive to pain . Beyond these hypotheses, however, the exact mechanism that triggers a migraine remains unknown.

It is often possible to identify certain risk factors that increase the chance of having migraines. A positive family history is very common, so the doctor will often ask about headaches in ones parents or siblings. Overall, migraines are more common in women than in men. In addition, a persons hormonal status can affect the pattern of migraines they experience; therefore, it is natural for a woman to notice a change in headaches and other migraine symptoms in adolescence or around the time of menopause.

Many individuals can identify specific triggers for their migraines. These triggers include fatigue, skipping a meal, caffeine withdrawal, stress, and certain foods . For many patients with isolated visual migraines, however, the events can be very infrequent and no definite trigger can be determined.

What Is A Retinal Migraine

Retinal migraines are episodes of repeated temporary vision loss or blindness in one eye. Retinal migraines can occur with a migraine headache or preceding the headache. Episodes can repeat throughout the day, and last from 5 to 20 minutes.

Retinal migraines are rare, affecting 1 in 200 migraine sufferers.

Retinal migraines usually indicate a serious underlying health problem, and are considered a medical emergency.

If you experience any type of vision loss, seek immediate medical attention.

If you suffer from migraines, contact an eye doctor near you, who can diagnose and discuss the best treatment options.

What Role Do Hormones Play In Migraine

Before age 10, boys and girls are equally affected by migraine. After puberty, however, the rate of migraine increases dramatically in girls. By the age of 17, migraine affects eight percent of boys and 23 percent of girls. We can thank the relationship between estrogen and migraine.

Migraine attacks are often triggered by the drop in estrogen that occurs before menstruation, and sometimes during ovulation. The condition usually improves during pregnancy, when estrogen levels rise. After delivery, however, estrogen levels plummetand migraine attacks resume.

For many women, migraine attacks worsenor happen for the first timeduring the hormonal rollercoaster of perimenopause. They might diminish after menopause, but that transition can take years.

During that time, women can feel much worse, says Lay. So they really need to be actively seeking out treatment that works and not just waiting it out until menopause.

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.

What Causes Migraine With Aura

It is not known exactly what causes auras.

Scientists have looked into it and found that it may be caused by a slow wave of altered brain activity called cortical spreading depression. This leads to temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood flow in the brain that affect how it works and could be related to pain.

Improving understanding of how these changes in the brain can lead to headache will help with the discovery of new drugs that could prevent migraine attacks.

What Are The Preventive Treatments For Migraine

Many patients with isolated visual migraines, without severe headaches, have relatively infrequent episodes that do not require specific preventive treatments. If a patient is aware of the particular triggers that seem to bring on an episode, then those triggers can be avoided.

In patients where the pattern of migraines includes frequent, severe headaches, it is very reasonable to consider additional preventive treatments. The main goal for any of these strategies is to reduce the overall frequency and severity of the headaches. None of the preventive treatments is a magic bullet that is 100% effective. For example, it would be considered successful if a preventive treatment helped reduce the number of severe headaches from 8 per month to 2-4 per month.

There are numerous medications that can be used as a preventive treatment for migraine. One medication that is used commonly, particularly because it has no side effects, is vitamin B2 . Approximately 100mg of riboflavin daily is thought to improve migraine headaches . One common side effect of riboflavin is that the urine turns bright yellow. Other herbal medications used to reduce migraine headaches include petasites and feverfew.

Treatment And Prevention Of Ocular And Visual Migraines

As already noted, visual disturbances caused by ocular migraines and visual migraines typically go away within an hour.

If you are performing tasks that require clear vision when an ocular migraine or visual migraine occurs, stop what you are doing and relax until it passes. If you’re driving, pull of the road, park your vehicle and wait for your vision to return to normal.

As soon as possible, see your eye doctor, family physician or a neurologist for evaluation of your migraine episodes. Your doctor can let you know about the latest medicines for treating migraines, including those that may help prevent future attacks.

It’s also a good idea to keep a journal of your diet and daily activities. Doing so can help you identify possible triggers of your ocular migraines or visual migraines .

Many migraine attacks are stress-related. You might be able to reduce how often they occur by:

  • Avoiding common migraine triggers

  • Getting plenty of sleep

  • Trying stress-busters such as yoga and massage

Migraines can be successfully managed so they are less frequent and debilitating. The first step is to see a doctor to discuss your symptoms including vision problems and discuss treatment and prevention options.

The Road To Migraine Freedom

Optical Migraine or Ocular Migraine

No two people experience migraineor respond to therapythe same way. A pill that helps one person may do nothing for another, and preventative treatment can take months to work.

You may have to try several medications to find one that works for you.

Managing migraine takes time and patience.

I am at the beginning of that journey. Ive adjusted my lifestyle, I take supplements, I keep a migraine journal, and I have a prescription on hand. Now that I recognize the early symptoms of a migraine attack, I know when to avoid triggers, get extra rest, and take my medication. If Im lucky, I can nip it in the bud.

For me, understanding my condition is half the battle. Im not constantly wondering what is wrong with me, or whether its all in my mind. When an attack comes on, I can explain why Im not myself. I dont feel as guilty about taking it easy or asking for support. And most importantly, I know Im not alone.

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.

Light Sensitivity And Photophobia

Those with migraine might develop a severe feeling of sensitivity to light before, during or after an attack, which is also referred to as photophobia. Conservative estimates suggest that 80 to 90% of migraine patients are affected by light sensitivity, making it among the most common symptoms of the headache disorder. It is also one of the distinguishing criteria for diagnosing migraine. In addition to the sensation of light-related pain, individual migraine attacks can be brought on by light exposureeither triggered due to brightness, exposure to certain types of light , or harsh patterns of light. Although symptoms of light sensitivity can appear similar to aura, the two phenomenons are distinct. For instance, light-specific visual aura may or may not manifest as pain or painful sensitivity. It also is frequently reported as an indicator of an oncoming attack; conversely, exposure to light can actually spark the migraine episode, and thus lead to an ensuing visual aura for those with that diagnosis. Furthermore, light sensitivity can impact people who have migraine without aura as well. We wrote up a more detailed explanation of migraine-related light sensitivity, which you can read here.

Are There Steps You Can Take To Lower Your Stroke Risk

Yes, there are things you can do starting right now to lower your risk of stroke. For one thing, be sure to have a complete physical every year and see your neurologist for migraine prevention and treatment. Ask your doctor about:

  • medications that can lessen the frequency of migraine attacks
  • an assessment of your risk factors for stroke
  • birth control methods that dont increase your risk of blood clots

There are also lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of stroke. Some of the most important include the following:

Symptoms Of Ocular Migraine

An ocular migraine can have you seeing stars…literally. Or you might get squiggles, or blind spots, or other visual mayhem that makes it very difficultif not impossibleto see. As you might imagine, this can make it hard to do pretty much anything, so an ocular migraine can really ruin your day.

Here are some of the common visual disturbances that happen with a migraine aura, according to a review article published in the Journal of Headache and Pain5:

  • Bright flashes of light

What Is A Migraine Aura

Migraine auras cause binocular visual distortions, but may also cause numbness or tingling, mental fog, or changes in taste, smell, or sense of touch.

An aura can occur with or without a migraine headache, and may sometimes precede the headache.

Migraine auras are quite common, affecting one in five migraine sufferers.

While the visual distortions are temporary, usually lasting around 30 minutes, they can impact your performance of certain activities, such as driving or reading.

The most common visual symptoms include:

  • Glittering stars
  • Psychedelic images

How Can I Prevent A Visual Migraine

Speak to your doctor to determine the best way to prevent a visual migraine. If you have specific triggers that bring on a migraine, then try to avoid these triggers as much as possible.

Some doctors may recommend certain medications that may help to reduce your risk of visual migraines, such as:

  • Riboflavin

Can I Have A Visual Migraine Without A Headache

Definitely. It is actually very common to have a visual migraine without any headache. The medical term for this is acephalgic migraine, which literally means migraine symptoms without headache. Except for the absence of a headache, the visual symptoms in acephalgic migraine are identical to the episodes that accompany a classic migraine aura.

Why Do I Get Ocular Migraines

A Guide to Ocular Migraine Vs Visual Migraine: Symptoms ...

Migraines are caused by cortical spreading depression, a medical term used to describe abnormal electrical activity in the brain that typically starts in the occipital lobe and spreads through the rest of the brain at a slow but steady pace. Ocular migraines may be caused by this same phenomenon that takes place in the retina of the eye.


Who Tends To Be Affected By Them

Like pretty much everything else, you can blame your genes for migraines. If just one of your parents suffers from regular migraines, your chance of living with them increases by 40 percent. Although there aren’t specific statistics on how retinal migraines are passed down along the generations, experts say with certainty that family history plays a big role.

Women tend to suffer from these migraines more often than men, and individuals over the age of 40 are more likely to have them as well. Someone who has been diagnosed with lupus, sickle cell disease, or epilepsy is at a higher risk as well. Finally, there are two other complicated-sounding diseases that are strongly connected to visual migraines: antiphospholipid syndrome, an immune system disorder that increases your risk for blood clot; and giant cell arteritis, inflammation of the arteries in the head and neck.

Retinal Migraine Occurs In One Eye

Retinal migraine usually occurs in one eye, and there may be an abnormal spread of electrical activity in the retina. The migraine may also be caused by the sudden constriction or blockage behind, or in, an eye. It may occur with, or without, a throbbing headache at the side of the head. The patient may also simultaneously experience sensitivity to light or nausea. The temporary loss or distortion of vision in one eye makes it difficult to conduct close visual work and makes it dangerous to drive. This type of migraine is generally of short duration, an hour or less, and then vision returns to normal. However, some researchers have found that irreversible vision loss is also possible.

Retinal migraine, as defined by the International Headache Society, is actually fairly uncommon. Most cases are diagnosed as ophthalmic migraine.


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