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What Are Ocular Migraines?

Have you ever been driving and all of a sudden you were unable to read the text on a street sign? You might have been having an ocular migraine. While classic migraines usually result in intense headaches or sensitivity to loud sounds and light, ocular migraines cause sudden vision impairment and are not necessarily painful.

Most ocular migraines don’t actually indicate or cause any damage to your eyes or brain. To find out if your sudden change in vision is due to ocular migraines, contact Optix Family Eyecare in Plainview. In the meantime, we’ve explained the difference between the different types of ocular migraines and what may cause them.

What Is An Ocular Migraine?

An ocular migraine, also known as a visual migraine, causes temporary visual distortion. This distortion often appears suddenly and may create the sensation of looking through a cracked window or having a blind spot moving across your visual field. There are two types of ocular migraines: retinal migraines and migraine auras.

Retinal migraines are rare, affecting 1 in 200 migraine sufferers. Retinal migraines should be suspected if you experience repeated temporary vision loss or blindness in one eye. This is due to sudden changes in tiny blood vessels in the retina, the back part of the eye that transfers visual signals to the brain.

This sudden change in retinal blood flow produces visual distortions and can occur with a migraine or before a headache starts, and can repeat throughout the day, and last from 5 to 20 minutes.

Retinal migraines are usually an indication of a serious underlying health problem or eye disease and are considered a medical emergency.

Migraine auras are very common, affecting 1 in 5 migraine sufferers. Migraine auras cause binocular visual distortions, affecting both eyes simultaneously. They may also cause tingling or numbness, mental fog, or changes in smell, taste, or sense of touch. An aura can occur with or without a migraine, and may sometimes precede a headache. The visual distortions are temporary and usually last around 30 minutes. They can impact your performance in certain activities, such as reading and driving.

The most common visual symptoms of migraine auras include:

  • Blind spots
  • Flashes of light
  • Glittering “stars”
  • Zigzagging lines

What Causes Ocular Migraines?

The exact cause of ocular migraines is still unknown, but some researchers believe they are caused by changes or spasms in the retinal nerves or blood vessels. Most eye doctors believe they are caused by the same factors that lead to classic migraines, including:

  • Increased estrogen
  • Family history of migraines
  • Personal triggers

Common triggers may include:

  • Strong odors
  • Loud noise
  • Bright lights
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Low blood sugar
  • Dehydration
  • Weather changes
  • Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Foods containing nitrates, MSG, or tyramine

How Are Ocular Migraines Treated?

Treatment options depend on the type of ocular migraine you’re experiencing.

Migraine auras typically disappear on their own within 30 minutes. It is best to take a pain reliever if you have an accompanying headache, to prevent it from getting worse. During an episode of a migraine aura, try to just relax and close your eyes until it passes.

Retinal migraines may be caused by a more serious condition and should be treated immediately. Seek emergency medical care if you experience any type of sudden vision loss. .

If you experience ocular migraines or suffer from classic migraine headaches, speak with your eye doctor about controlling your symptoms and preventing further episodes in the future. Contact Optix Family Eyecare in Plainview to learn more about ocular migraines and possible treatment options.

At Optix Family Eyecare, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 516-252-0725 or book an appointment online to see one of our Plainview eye doctors.

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