Ocular Migraine – One Medical Term, Two Different Conditions
Find out what differentiates migraine aura from retinal migraine.
Nov 02, 2018
Flashes of light, shimmering stars and a fade to black – while this may sound like the climactic end to a sci fi movie, don’t be fooled – these are the symptoms people experience when they suffer from an ocular migraine.
When a headache is accompanied by a visual disturbance it is referred to as an "ocular migraine". However, there are distinct subtypes of migraine that fall under this definition: migraine with aura and retinal migraine.1
What’s the Difference?
Migraine auras are characterized by a variety of symptoms, some of which impact vision. This type of ocular migraine is common and will affect both eyes. If you have a migraine aura, you might experience one or more of the following visual disturbances:
Flashes of light
Shimmering spots or stars
Such visual disturbances do not last long.
You might be surprised to learn that migraine aura isn’t always accompanied by a headache.1
Retinal migraine produces decreased vision or blindness in just one eye. Such symptoms may precede or accompany a headache. Retinal migraine is a rare condition.1 If you experience any type of vision loss in just one eye, you should check with an eye care professional.1
What Causes Ocular Migraine?
The exact cause of ocular migraine is unknown. Leading theories attribute them to spasms in retinal blood vessels, and changes to nerve cells in the retina.2
Treatment for Ocular Migraine
Thankfully, ocular migraine symptoms usually go away on their own within 30 minutes.2 In the interim, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) pain medications and anti-nausea medications can be beneficial for alleviating your symptoms.3
Resting your eyes, avoiding bright light, and minimizing screen time (time spent looking at a television, computer monitor, tablet or phone) can also bring relief.3
If your symptoms do not subside, or recur frequently, seek medical treatment.