Headaches can Cause Blindness- 4 Facts about Ocular Migraines

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Ocular Migraine, or Migraine with Aura? Many confuse ocular migraines (optical migraine, ophthalmic migraine) with migraine with aura. Identifying ocular migraines is simple, with these four basic tips.


What is an ocular migraine?

According to the Mayo Clinic, ocular migraines (also called “retinal migraines” or “ophthalmic migraines”) are migraine headaches that cause temporary blindness or visual impairment.  Ocular migraines occur when blood vessels contract, inhibiting the flow of blood to your eyes.  An ocular migraine attack lasts around five to thirty minutes.  While generally harmless, ocular migraines can produce feelings of panic, nausea, and dizziness in migraine sufferers.

What are the symptoms of ocular migraines?

Ocular migraine begins with an “aura,” a blind spot out of the corner of the eye that gradually gets bigger, making it difficult to focus on anything else, like driving a car, reading, or writing.

Typically, visual distortions associated with ocular migraines follow a pattern:

  • Initially, a small spot of light, or blind spot, appears in one side of your peripheral vision.  Additionally, a dull, throbbing headache might appear.
  • Within ten minutes, the blind spot grows, taking up your entire peripheral vision on that side.
  • At this point, your vision is severely impaired.  You might experience temporary blindness, distorted blurry vision, or a bright, iridescent orb that clouds your eyesight.
  • Sometimes, disorientation ensues, a result of trying to see out of only one eye.
  • After approximately half an hour, the ocular migraine aura disappears.
  • Most people feel exhausted, wiped out after an ocular migraine, but after a brief nap, you should feel much better.
  • You might feel nausea, either because of the aura itself, or from anxiety.

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Ocular migraine or migraine with aura?

Sometimes, people confuse the symptoms of ocular migraines with those of migraines with aura, particularly in the absence of head pain.  One important distinction is that while ocular migraines strike only one eye, migraine auras can create bright zigzagging images, flashing lights, and blind spots in either or both eyes.

Treating ocular migraines

As with any other type of migraine headache, there is no “one option” for preventing or relieving the chronic pain symptoms.  Visit a neurologist, and find out what migraine medications are available for your specific condition.  Additionally, you should keep a migraine journal, avoid headache triggers, take dietary supplements, and avoid stress, at all costs.

  • Writing in a headache diary is the best way to detect migraine triggers, which may include factors like food, weather, hormones, air pressure, scents, or emotional health.  For tips on including relevant information in your migraine journal, read 10 Clues your should Include in your Headache Diary Today.
  • If bright lights cause your headaches, consider wearing tinted sunglasses.  Experiment with different shades of lenses, as results vary for different migraine patients.  Overall, most migraineurs report decreased pain while wearing rose-tinted shades.
  • For many, supplementing with a mixture of butterbur, magnesium, riboflavin, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an excellent way to improve neurological health while managing migraines.

Related reading:

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New York Times- Patient Thanks Butterbur for Migraine Relief

Go Ask Alice: Migraine Auras in Wonderland


Causes of Optical Migraine Headaches- Livestrong

Ocular migraine: What causes it? Mayo Clinic

What Is an Ocular Migraine?