Ocular Migraine


Ocular migraine, also known as retinal migraine, a visual migraine, or ophthalmic migraine is a known retinal disease that often occurs with a migraine headache and traditionally affects only one eye. It is caused by an infarct or vascular spasm in or behind the affected eye.


During some ocular migraine episodes, vision loss may occur with no headache. On other occasions, a throbbing headache may come on the same side of the head as the visual loss occurs. The visual loss tends to affect the entire monocular visual field of one eye, but not both eyes. Typically, after each ocular migraine episode, normal vision returns.

People who experience ocular migraines often complain of the following symptoms:

  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Blind spots in the visual field
  • Temporary loss of vision
  • Seeing odd patterns such as lines of zigzags
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to light or sound


Diagnostic criteria from IHS:

A. At least 2 attacks fulfilling criteria B and C
B. Fully reversible monocular positive and/or negative visual phenomena (eg, scintillations, scotomata or blindness) confirmed by examination during an attack or (after proper instruction) by the patient’s drawing of a monocular field defect during an attack
C. Headache fulfilling criteria B-D for 1.1 Migraine without aura begins during the visual symptoms or follows them within 60 minutes
D. Normal ophthalmological examination between attacks
E. Not attributed to another disorder

The factors that help doctors determine if you have ocular migraines or a different type of headache are the monocular visual disturbances that you experience. The visual disturbances that occur typically take place in only one eye and may cause temporary vision loss or even blindness for a set period of time. However, before diagnosing an ocular migraine, a medical exam is performed to rule out any unknown medical conditions, such as stroke, pituitary tumor, blood clots or detached retina.


When you are suffering from ocular migraines, you may worry about migraine relief options that are available. For mild cases of ocular migraines or when you have limited pain, taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like Aspirin, may be appropriate. The medication is designed to help relieve the pain and discomfort of headaches, which allow you to move forward with your activities.

Although an over-the-counter medication may be appropriate for mild symptoms, it is usually best to seek medical attention if your headaches are moderate to severe. When your migraine symptoms are interfering with your daily activities, it is important to seek the advice of a medical doctor.


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