An ocular migraine is a temporary visual disturbances that can affect one or both eyes. Though they can be frightening, ocular migraines typically are harmless and the visual symptoms typically self-resolve without medication within 20 to 30 minutes. You may also hear them called ophthalmic migraines, retinal migraines and eye migraines. Unlike other forms of migraine, they may occur without any accompanying head pain. It’s not uncommon for a single patient to experience a wide range of visual symptoms such as:
- Small, enlarging blind spot in middle of vision (scotoma)
- Flashing or flickering lights in vision (scintillations)
- Wavy or Zig-zag lines in vision surrounding the blind spot
- The blind spot usually enlarges and moves across your field of vision.
It is always recommended that if you are driving and these symptoms arise, to pull over immediately and safely wait until the episode passes. While it may seem more like a vision problem, when it comes to ocular migraines, it is a neurological one. Since there are many types and forms of migraines it’s important to keep a log of when they occur so you can discuss with your primary care physician. Common migraine triggers that cause a susceptible person to have a migraine attack (ocular or traditional) include certain foods such as aged cheeses, caffeine, red wine, smoked meats, chocolate, MSG, or artificial sweeteners. Other potential triggers include cigarette smoke, perfumes or other strong odors, glaring or harsh lights, lack of sleep, and emotional stress. It’s estimated that 36 million Americans suffer from migraine symptoms, but only 1 of every 3 people talk with a doctor about their headaches.
While the symptoms can be disorienting and distressing, they are often short-lived, and almost always reversible and require no treatment. Take some time away from triggers and wait for the symptoms to fade. When experiencing any visual changes, we always recommend calling our office at (616) 954-2020 so that our technicians and doctors can review everything in case of an ophthalmic emergency.