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Ophthalmic Migraines or Ocular & Visual Migraines

Ocular migraines or ophthalmic migraines are the most common types of migraines. They are characterized by a gradual loss of vision, usually in one eye, which can last for hours or days. Visual migraines and ocular migraines can also cause spots or flashes in your field of vision.

Ophthalmic migraine is an ocular migraine accompanied by a visual disturbance such as seeing flashing lights or zigzagging. Other rare symptoms of ocular migraines are dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.

Visual migraines are more common than ocular migraines, and most of the time it is misunderstood as ocular or ophthalmic migraines. Visual migraine is actually not a migraine but just a visual aura.

While the ocular migraines affect only one eye in most cases, visual migraines are seen in both eyes.

Other names of visual migraine are aura migraines or migraine with visual auras.


Ocular or Ophthalmic Migraines

Ophthalmic migraines – they’re pretty common. Patients usually experience visual symptoms like seeing dense zigzag-type lines at the center or periphery (side) of their vision.

These bright lines may be associated with flashing light sensations, and sometimes also include headache, nausea, vomiting, and increased light sensitivity.

There are many different symptoms that come with ocular migraines. Usually, these symptoms resolve on their own after several minutes but the less than one hour.

It’s often helpful to rest in a dark room during an attack to make things more bearable. Medical treatment is only necessary for unusual attacks or if migraines are frequent (3 or more per month).

Common Names

  • Ophthalmic Migraines
  • Ocular Migraines
  • Retinal Migraine
  • Eye Migraine Aura Vision

Ocular or Visual Migraines Versus (vs) Migraine Headaches

Migraine is a neurological disease with symptoms like severe headache, nausea, and sensitivity to light. They are notoriously difficult to diagnose.

The most common type of migraine, the Ocular or Visual Migraine, can be tricky to tell apart from a regular headache. A visual migraine will often cause an aura before the pain sets in, while a regular headache does not.

Similarly, ophthalmic migraines may or may not be accompanied by mild to severe forms of headaches, but the headache is a prominent symptom in migraine headaches.

Ocular or Ophthalmic Migraines Symptoms

Ophthalmic or ocular migraine symptoms generally manifest as a small blind spot in one eye. As this blind spot gets larger, you cannot drive or read with the affected eye.

Some people experience the entire visual field of one eye to be affected due to increased central scotoma. Usually, the episode lasts less than an hour. In rare cases, the symptoms persist for days.

Common Symptoms of Visual Migraines

Varieties of symptoms are common in visual migraines. Some people notice a small flickering dark area in the center of the visual field, that may be stationary or migrating across the peripheral field of vision.

others might notice a wavy ring-like colored pattern of light around the central visual field.

Visual migraines usually affect both eyes and last less than 30 minutes. A typical migraine headache may start soon after the symptoms of a visual migraine subside or may not happen at all.

How can you check whether you have Ocular Migraine or Visual Migraine?

When you are experiencing central vision loss with or without visual auras, you might be wondering if it’s ophthalmic migraine or vascular migraine.

It’s easy to work out which type of eye migraine you’re experiencing. Just cover one eye and check whether the visual disturbance affects just that one eye or both eyes.

If it’s just affecting the one eye, it may be an ocular migraine. If it’s affecting both eyes, then the likelihood is that the cause is down to a visual migraine

Be careful not to neglect your vision problems. If you experience any temporary vision problems, consult an eye doctor as soon as possible. Only a doctor can tell if transient issues are harmless or a sign of something serious, such as a retinal detachment.

What Causes Ophthalmic and Visual Migraines?

The exact cause of ocular or visual migraines can be hard to pin down. But it is believed they happen for the same reasons/factors as regular migraines.

Migraine headaches are hereditary and can be debilitating – most sufferers that have a family history of migraine will experience the same symptoms.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), migraine symptoms can be caused by the activation of an event-generating mechanism in the brain, which leads to the release of substances that produce pain and inflammation around your head.

Studies have shown how changes in blood flow to the brain during ophthalmic and visual migraines are connected, but the exact reasons for this are still unclear.

There may be a link between estrogen levels and migraines, but the relationship between the two is not clearly understood.

Studies show that there may be a correlation between estrogen levels and migraines. A drop in estrogen concentration is theorized to be the most likely cause for this phenomenon.

Estrogen is a hormone that controls chemicals in the brain associated with pain. It fluctuates in women during their periods, when they are pregnant, and when they go through menopause.

Studies show that women who take birth control and HRT hormones may also experience variability in estrogen levels. This can in turn play a role in migraine flare-ups.

Triggers for Visual and Ocular Migraines

Many people know the individual triggers of a migraine and can identify combinations of them. This knowledge can be particularly useful when it comes to preventing migraines.

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfume
  • Bright or flickering lights
  • Certain foods (such as aged cheese and smoked meats)
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Chocolate
  • MSG (and other processed food additives)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Stress and lack of sleep

A migraine diary can provide insight into what triggers your migraine. Along with notes on everything in your life, it should include information about what you eat, when you exercise, when you sleep, and when your menstrual cycle starts.

Treatment and Preventive Measures

Ophthalmic and visual migraines can impact your day-to-day activities, but the appropriate treatment and preventive measures help you to maintain your quality of life.

If you’ve got migraine and are experiencing temporary blindness or other visual disturbances, wait until they get better before driving.

Ocular migraines typically go away with time by resting and avoiding bright light. Once the symptoms disappear, you should no longer be affected by them.

There are many treatments you can try at home, as well as medication prescriptions, which alleviate the symptoms of recurring migraines. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or Excedrin Migraine may help reduce the pain.

Here are some helpful tips for managing migraine when you’re at home:

  • Lie down or sit in a dark, quiet area with your eyes closed.
  • massaging your scalp with a lot of pressure
  • putting pressure on your temples
  • putting a damp towel over your forehead


Ocular and visual migraines are something that should be discussed with your doctor, particularly if you have them regularly or they’re happening more often. Seeing your doctor is also advised if they arise.

Your doctor will find out what’s wrong and can often prescribe medicines that reduce the severity or frequency of symptoms.

If you experience any drastic changes in your vision, sudden blindness in one eye, or problems with thinking, seek immediate medical attention.


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