Pinpointing the Symptoms and Treatment Options for Ocular Migraines

May 7th 2016

Ocular migraines are commonly temporary and typically resolve on their own. Individuals who perform tasks that include driving or operating equipment may need to halt actions when an ocular migraine occurs. Patients who suffer from ocular migraines with symptoms of a classic migraine or aura should consult with a physician for an eye exam and evaluation of treatment for migraine. Drug therapies and natural treatments, such as relaxation techniques and massage, are commonly recommended for people who suffer from various types of migraines.

The Basics

Ocular migraines are similar to a migraine headache aura. An aura produces short-term visual symptoms such as blind spots, shimmering spots, flashes of light or zigzagging patterns in one or both eyes. Some individuals experience ocular migraines without any symptoms of a pulsating headache. Migraine auras include temporary vision problems and one- or two-sided head pain at the same time.


Individuals experiencing an ocular migraine often have vision problems that affect one or both eyes and may include temporary blindness that lasts up to 72 hours. Individuals experiencing vision problems in both eyes may have developed a retinal migraine. Flashing lights, spots and patterns are the most common symptoms of an ocular migraine. Patients may also experience a pulsating headache on one side of the head, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to sound and light.


Medical professionals have not yet determined the exact cause but speculate that symptoms of an ocular migraine could result when the blood vessels of the retina spasm. The changes during the spasms spread into the retina across the nerve cells. The retina consists of the delicate lining in the back of the eyes. Genetics may increase an individual's risk of developing ocular migraines. In addition, migraines have been linked to hormones, such as estrogen, especially during menopause, pregnancy and menstrual cycles.


Ocular migraines can be triggered by lifestyle habits and environmental factors. Bright lights, powerful odors and loud sounds can make an individual susceptible to ocular migraines. Additional triggers may include anxiety, stress, over-consumption of caffeine, and foods that contain nitrates and MSG. Environmental factors, such as changing weather, can provoke migraines in some individuals, too.


Ocular migraines are temporary visual disturbances that last approximately 20 to 30 minutes and up to 72 hours in one or both eyes. The condition is typically painless, harmless and self-resolves quickly. Individuals who are prone to migraine headaches and vision problems should know the ins and outs of the condition to report symptoms to a physician. Symptoms that persist should be evaluated by a medical professional.

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