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What are Ocular Migraine Symptoms?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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The most common ocular migraine symptoms involve temporary vision disturbances, or changes in one or both eyes. These vision changes can appear as bright flashes of light, a blind spot in the eye, zigzag lines across the eye, or different visual patterns such as spots appearing before the eyes for a few moments. These ocular migraine symptoms will usually disappear within a few minutes, followed by a migraine headache. When one experiences these particular migraine symptoms, this is often referred to as an "aura" associated with migraines, though sometimes doctors do use the term "ocular migraine" to refer to both this experience, as well as the less common ocular migraine that can cause temporary vision loss.

A true ocular migraine, according to experts, will typically only cause vision disturbances in one eye. The ocular migraine symptoms generally include a blurring of the vision or a loss of peripheral vision in one eye. Sometimes ocular migraine sufferers will lose vision completely in one eye, which is due to a vascular spasm of blood vessels behind the eye. The blood vessels constrict, and reduce blood flow temporarily; this condition is almost always temporary, and does not cause any lasting damage, but it is still a good idea to visit a doctor if it occurs frequently. This is also referred to as a retinal migraine.

This second type of ocular migraine, or retinal migraine, is much less common than the first type, which simply causes the aura and vision disturbances in both eyes. It is important to make careful note of ocular migraine symptoms so that a doctor can make a correct diagnosis between a simple ocular migraine that causes visual disturbances, or a retinal migraine that causes temporary vision loss, which is sometimes a more serious condition requiring regular migraine medication. Sometimes, people experience ocular migraine symptoms simultaneously with headache pain, sometimes the symptoms precede the headache by a few minutes or even a few hours, and occasionally there is no headache pain associated with an ocular migraine.

Some people may be more likely to experience ocular migraine symptoms than others. Women and younger people, for example, experience these symptoms more frequently. While not considered true "ocular migraine symptoms," people who suffer from migraines often find that they develop a sensitivity to light as well. In this case, it is best to rest in a dark room until the migraine passes, because exposure to bright lights can worsen the pain and cause nausea.

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