Visual Disturbances with Migraines

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Visual disturbances are common symptoms of migraines with aura, a type of migraine that affects approximately one third of all migraine sufferers. Bright flashing lights, tunnel vision, and blind spots occur prior to and during a visual migraine attack, in addition to stroke-like symptoms. Below are some typical types of visual disturbances that happen with migraines.

Visual Disturbances with Migraines

Migraines with aura

Migraine attacks are a neurological disorder that occurs in phases, or a progression of various ailments, which include but are not limited to intense long-lasting headaches, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to lights (photophobia).

Visual disturbances indicate migraine aura, the phase just minutes before the migraine strikes; symptoms can differ for each patient, and don’t necessarily include a migraine headache at all.

Symptoms of migraines with aura can include vertigo, partial paralysis, visual disturbances, sudden speech slurring, hallucinatory scents, feebleness, and loss of consciousness.

Migraine Auras without Headache: Silent Migraines

Many of the symptoms associated with migraines with aura also occur before a stroke, so it’s vitally important for migraine patients who experience visual disturbances to practice stroke prevention.

Variances in visual disturbances

Sometimes, you doctor can determine what kind of migraine treatment you require based on what type of visual disturbances you experience before having a migraine attack.

There are several types of temporary visual disturbances that people experience before migraine attacks; here are some of the most common:


Photopsia is a sudden bright flash of light; this is the most common visual disturbance associated with migraines with aura.

Scintillating (Fortification) Scotoma

Scintillating scotoma occurs in 25% of migraine patients, causing a shimmery crescent shape with spiky edges to appear on the left-hand side which can expand to occupy about half of your field of vision on that side. It is also sometimes described as bright zigzag line that spreads across your vision.

Amaurosis Fugax

This is a common symptom of heart disease that is also associated with migraines. Visual disturbances for this type of migraine aura include loss of vision in one eye that lasts for seconds up to a few minutes. Patients describe it as a “dark shade” that is pulled down over that eye for just a few moments.


With metamorphopsia, objects and shapes are distorted in size, shape, and color, with a special emphasis on body parts. In facial metamorphopsia, only faces appear altered and misshapen.

Metamorphopsia is associated with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome Migraine, a phenomenon aptly named for Lewis Carroll’s classic stories, in which people and things are wildly out of proportion with reality. The noted author was a known migraine sufferer, so it’s possible that in illustrating Alice’s adventures he was also describing his own battles with migraine attacks.

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Like this? Read more:

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Migraine Auras without Headache: Silent Migraines

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