Ocular Migraine

Ocular migraine is a painless and temporary disturbance to the sight. It can be associated to one or both the eyes. It may cause vision loss or impairment persisting for approximately an hour. This irregularity may also be followed by migraine headache. These episodes are sometimes referred to as opthamic, monocular or retinal migraine. The condition considered to be a rare disorder as it affects merely 1 out or every 200 individuals who already have migraine issue. In most cases experts indicate that the condition also occurs due to underlying medical conditions.   These migraine attacks can be frightening; however, they are generally harmless and may resolve without medical intervention in 20 to 30 minutes.

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There is another condition which is similar to ocular migraine. In this condition similar ocular disturbance is noticed which is often followed by throbbing (one-sided headache). This condition is called ‘migraine with aura’. In this case the visual disturbance is called as merely ‘aura’ and not ocular migraine. Condition wherein only migraine headache is experienced without visual disturbance is called as ‘migraine without aura’. Migraine auras are often visual in nature; however, they can induce hearing issues, speech or smell issues.   Sometimes both the types of migraine can attack simultaneously. In this case the patient may suffer from visual disturbance and headache (unilateral and bilateral). However, such situations are less often recorded.


The causes of ocular migraine and general migraine are said to be similar. It is believed that migraine may have genetic influence. Studies indicate that 70 percent of the people affected with migraine have familial history of this type of condition. It is believed that there is a certain mechanism in deeper level of the brain which triggers such headache. This mechanism causes secretion of inflammatory substance around the blood vessels and nerves in the brain. However, it is not determined exactly what this mechanism is and why it happens. It is not even known what the association between the mechanism and ocular impairment is.   Based on imaging researches it is determined that blood flow fluctuation takes place in the brain during episodes of ocular migraine and aura; the underlying cause for such fluctuation is not known. The disorder mostly occurs during 30s and 40s but it may also start at puberty and can affect children as well. Women are at doubled risk of suffering from the condition. There are no specific surveys done to show the population affected with the condition. It is estimated that around 15% to 18% women whereas 6% men in United States are affected with migraine headache.   Experts believe that common triggers that may cause such migraine headache (or even ocular migraine) include certain foods like aged cheese, caffeinated drinks, chocolate, smoked food (mostly meat), red wine, etc. Sometimes even food additives like MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) and artificial sweeteners may also cause migraine episodes in some individuals. Other triggers that may lead to migraine attacks include cigarette smoking, strong odors, glaring, strong lights, perfumes, extreme emotional stress and lack of sleep.

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Symptoms of Ocular Migraine

Vision issues are common symptoms experienced by people affected with Ocular migraine. These ocular impairments include blind spots in sight, complete blindness in eye and occurrence of flashing light. Sometimes retinal migraine can cause vision loss. Affected individuals may also have headache that may persist for 2 to 72 hours. Such headache may be experienced only on one side of the head.  This pain may be moderate or excruciating. Sometimes intense pulsation may also be experienced. These episodes may make you feel worse when you undergo physical exertion.   Sometimes people may also experience other symptoms such as vomiting, nausea or sensitivity to sound or light. In most cases of ocular migraine the vision loss is associated to only one eye. Migraine with an aura is more common and may be accompanied with symptoms such as flashing lights and blind spots. If you assume that one eye is affected then try covering the affected eye and see from the other one; this will help you detected whether the condition is influential on one or both eyes.  

Ocular migraine diagnosis

The diagnosis of the condition is primarily done in the clinic based on questions asked by your doctor. He may probe you on associated symptoms and examine your eyes. He may try to detect other issues that may be causing the condition. For example there are conditions such as Amaurosis fugax which causes temporary blindness due to insufficient blood supply to the eyes. Your doctor may check whether the symptoms are not resulted due to other conditions likes spasm in artery, giant cell arteries, etc. He may also try to rule out possibilities of drug abuse, blood clotting and other blood vessel associated issues.

Treatment of ocular migraine

Usually ocular migraine is harmless which is why it does not require any treatment. The episodes of the condition usually alleviate within an hour; sometimes it may take longer time. Seeing a doctor will help you deal with the condition. Usually doctors suggest long term treatment regimen which may help in alleviating complications. There are some drugs which are suggested by doctors. These drugs include aspirin, epilepsy medications (divalproex sodium, topiramate), tricyclic antidepressants (nortriptyline, amitriptyline) and beta blockers, etc. If the condition is caused due to some other underlying condition, then it can be detected and resolved. One common suggestion is to avoid providing risky tasks which needs concentration and visual attention if you are suffering from ocular migraine attack.

Ocular migraine images

ocular migraine aura ocular migranie images

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