Ocular migraine (retinal migraine) is a temporary disturbance of vision, affecting one or both eyes. Episodes of ocular migraines are painless but can be quite frightening if you don’t know what is going on. Generally, ocular migraines will resolve on their own within 30 minutes without medications.
If an episode of ocular migraine is followed by a headache experienced on one side of the head, this is known as migraine with aura, and the visual disturbances are then known as the aura, rather than ocular migraine.
Roughly one in every 200 people who experience migraines will also experience an ocular migraine. To help distinguish between regular migraines and ocular migraines, it’s important that you speak with your doctor.
Ocular migraines are believed to share the causes with regular migraines. The World Health Organization believes that migraines have a genetic basis, and some studies have revealed that 70 percent of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraines.
Migraines have been found to be triggered deep in the brain, releasing inflammatory substances around the nerve and blood vessels of the brain. Why this occurs is still unclear.
Ocular migraines may also be triggered by changes in blood flow to the brain, as well as cigarette smoke, certain foods, caffeinated beverages, red wine, food additives, and strong odors like perfumes.
When a person is experiencing an ocular migraine, or its onset, they may begin to notice changes in their vision. They may see flashing lights and blind spots, and even experience a temporary loss of vision.
Symptoms can last between four to 72 hours and may only affect one side of the head, feel moderately or very painful, throb or pulsate, and worsen when you move around. Accompanying symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.
Ocular migraines are generally harmless, so treatment often is not required as the condition will resolve on its own. If an ocular migraine occurs while you are performing activities like as driving, you should stop and wait until the ocular migraine passes.
If your ocular migraines are a part of migraine with aura, you will want to speak to your doctor about treatment and prevention of your migraines. This is often done with medications and lifestyle changes.
Some medications that can help relieve symptoms related to ocular migraines include aspirin, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, and anti-epileptics.
Reducing stress and avoiding migraine triggers is also recommended.
You should see a doctor for ocular migraines if your vision suddenly deteriorates. Losing your eyesight suddenly should prompt you to make an emergency appointment with your doctor for immediate medical attention.