A Guide to Ocular Migraine: Everything You Need to Know

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We have all experienced different types of headaches. Most adults get headaches now and then, but how do you know if it’s serious? But there is a throbbing excruciating pain in your head that usually signals that you do not have a normal headache.These are signs that you might be having a migraine. The most common neurological disorder is the migraine. It is estimated that a whopping 30 million Americans are suffering from migraines each year. What is even worse is that if you suffer from migraines, you are more likely to suffer a stroke. Each type of migraine is caused by a specific trigger, leading to a unique set of symptoms. An ocular migraine is a type of migraine that involves visual interference. Since some migraines, including the ocular migraine with aura, can show similar symptoms as life-threatening conditions, you need to know the differences and knowing when it as an emergency.

Understanding Ocular Migraine

Almost 15% of adults suffer from migraines. In a nutshell, migraines are recurring pulsing or throbbing headaches that can last as long as 72 hours. They usually start on one side of the head. The symptoms get worse when you start doing strenuous activity. Ocular migraines are a rare condition that can be defined as a headache followed by vision changes. You may see lines, shimmering lights, stars, or at times blind spots. Some people will experience temporary blindness in one eye. A typical ocular migraine will last for roughly 30 minutes, usually affecting one eye at a time.

Types of Ocular Migraines

  • Migraine With Aura
Ocular migraine with aura is a recurring headache that typically starts simultaneously or after sensory disturbances known as an aura. These disturbances (aura) include visual changes such as blind spots and tingling in your face or hands. At times, the aura can occur without having a headache.
  • Retinal Migraine
These migraines typically refer to symptoms that manifest only in one eye during or before the headache phase of the migraine episode. Retinal migraines tend to happen repetitively and are short-lasting, accompanied by blindness or diminished vision. The loss of vision is not related to migraines. A more severe underlying condition causes the loss of vision. You might need to see a doctor immediately to get your eyes checked.

What Are the Causes?

The exact causes of ocular migraines are not definitively established. However, many scientists think that the symptoms you experience happen because of reduced blood flow to the brain. Spasm in the blood vessels is what causes a reduction in blood flow. The source of visual disturbances in ocular migraines is the retinal blood vessels. Contrarily, the source of migraines with aura is the occipital cortex, which is located at the base of the skull. Since the source of the problem in aura migraines is not the eyes but the brain, you will still experience the sensory disturbances even when you close your eyes.

Is There a Connection Between Strokes and Ocular Migraines?

Currently, there isn’t a definitive answer. However, some researchers believe that ocular migraine and stroke have a connection. The connection, they believe, has to do with damage to the cells lining your blood vessels. The inflammation of the cells can cause them to become stiff and hence increase the risk of suffering a stroke. Also, people who have migraine with aura are twice as likely to suffer a stroke as those who have no migraines.


With ocular migraines, it is somewhat difficult to tell whether you have the symptoms in one of your eyes or both. You must close one eye to know which one is experiencing the symptoms. Expect a headache that lasts from four hours to 72 hours, and it:
  • Feels either moderately or severely painful
  • Affects only one side of your head
  • Gets worse when you move around
  • Pulsates or throbs
Other ocular migraine symptoms are:
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to sound or light
  • Visual disturbances such as blind spots, floating lines, zigzagging patterns, and flashing lights


The symptoms of ocular migraines will typically disappear after half an hour, and you might not need ocular migraine treatment. It will be best to take a break from what you are doing and rest your eyes until they get back to normal. If there is vision loss in one eye, you should get that checked immediately or go to an emergency room near you. Our doctor might also recommend the following drugs:
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Epilepsy drugs
  • Blood pressure medicine
It is highly recommended that you seek the appropriate medical treatment before your symptoms worsen. Seek emergency care at Express ER in Abilene if you notice that you have symptoms that only affect one eye.
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