Ocular migraine



What is ocular migraine?

A migraine that involves visual disturbance is called an ocular migraine. Ocular migraines can develop with or without the accompanying pain of a classic migraine.

During an ocular migraine, or migraine with aura, you may see flashing or shimmering lights, zigzagging lines, or stars. Some people describe psychedelic images. It may also cause blind spots in your field of vision. Of people who report having migraines, one out of every five experiences this aura.

Ocular migraines can interfere with your ability to perform tasks like reading, writing, or driving.

Ocular migraine is sometimes confused with retinal migraine, but they are two distinct conditions. A retinal migraine is rare and affects only one eye. Loss of vision in one eye can be a symptom of a more serious medical issue. If you have vision loss in one eye, you should seek medical attention to rule out any underlying conditions.

How common is ocular migraine?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of ocular migraine?

The common symptoms of ocular migraine are:

Vision problems

Vision problems that affect one eye, such as flashing lights, blind spots in your field of vision, or blindness. You might have them for only a few minutes or up to 30 minutes. These problems affect just one eye, which makes ocular migraines different from other types.

It can be hard to tell the difference between flashing lights or blindness in one side of your vision — but involving both eyes — and having these symptoms in only one eye. If you can’t tell, cover one eye and then the other.


Headache that lasts from 4 to 72 hours. It tends to:

  • Affect one side of your head
  • Feel moderately or very painful
  • Throb or pulsate
  • Feel worse when you move around

Other symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Being sensitive to light or sound

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes ocular migraine?

Experts aren’t sure what causes ocular migraines. Some feel that the problem is related to:

  • Spasms in blood vessels in the retina, the lining in the back of the eye
  • Changes that spread across the nerve cells in the retina

It’s rare, but people who have these migraines may have a higher risk of permanent vision loss in one eye. Experts don’t know if medications that prevent migraines — such as tricyclic antidepressants or anti-seizure medications — can help prevent that vision loss. But if you have ocular migraines, even if they go away on their own, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for ocular migraine?

Please consult your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is ocular migraine diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine your eyes. He’ll try to rule out other conditions that could cause similar problems, such as:

  • Amaurosis fugax, temporary blindness due to a lack of blood flow to the eye. It can happen because of a blockage in an artery that leads to the eye.
  • Spasms in the artery that gets blood to the retina
  • Giant cell arteritis, a problem that causes inflammation in blood vessels. It can lead to vision problems and blindness.
  • Other blood vessel problems related to autoimmune diseases
  • Drug abuse
  • Conditions that keep your blood from clotting normally, like sickle cell disease and polycythemia

How is ocular migraine treated?

Ocular migraines usually go away on their own within 30 minutes, so most people don’t need treatment for them. It’s best to stop what you’re doing and rest your eyes until your vision goes back to normal. If you have a headache, take a pain reliever that your doctor recommends.

There’s been little research on the best way to treat or prevent ocular migraines. But, your doctor may recommend one or more meds:

  • Aspirin
  • Drugs that treat epilepsy, such as divalproex sodium (Depakote) or topiramate (Topamax)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or nortriptyline (Pamelor)
  • Blood pressure medicines called beta blockers

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage ocular migraine?

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: November 1, 2017 | Last Modified: November 1, 2017

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