Migraines can cause excruciating head pain and possibly last for days, but can they affect your vision? They actually can, but not in the same way that classic migraines do. While shorter-lasting and often not as painful, ocular and visual migraines can affect your central vision and make it difficult to perform daily tasks.
Ocular migraines cause vision loss in one eye due to blind spots. Visual migraines have more varying symptoms but are accompanied by a migraine aura. Both tend to last less than an hour and have similar triggers that include food preservatives, tobacco smoke, and caffeine. To prevent these migraine attacks, avoid your triggers and reduce stress.
Ocular and Visual Migraines
There are different types of migraines and they can affect you in different ways. When you think of migraines, you may think of classic migraines that involve painful throbbing or a pulsing feeling, often on one side of your head. Other classic migraine symptoms include sensitivity to sound and light, nausea, and vomiting.
Ocular migraines, on the other hand, specifically affect your eyes and have visual symptoms. These migraine attacks are rare and last for about an hour, unlike classic migraines which can last for hours or even days. Also known as retinal migraines, they can be painless but may also be accompanied by or follow a migraine headache. They affect only one of your eyes.
Visual migraines are sometimes confused with ocular migraines, but they’re actually two separate conditions. Visual migraines are simply migraines with flashes of light referred to as auras. These visual auras are harmless, temporary visual disturbances that last for about 20 minutes. Unlike ocular migraines, these migraine auras affect both of your eyes.
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While both types of migraines affect your vision, ocular and visual migraines have different varying symptoms. Ocular migraine symptoms usually involve blind spots, known as scotomas, that affect the central vision in one of your eyes. This can be extremely concerning, especially if it leads to temporary blindness in the affected eye.
Central vision is extremely important since it’s how you read, drive, and take in the details of your surroundings. As the blind spot grows, you’re able to take in fewer and fewer details, making basic activities difficult or even dangerous. Fortunately, they usually last less than an hour.
Visual migraines, on the other hand, can have a lot more variation. Along with aura symptoms, you may experience:
- Flashing blind spots in or near your central vision
- A zig-zag or wavy ring of colored light around your central vision
- A blind spot that gradually moves across your field of vision
While irritating, these symptoms usually last for less than 30 minutes. You may experience a migraine headache shortly afterward, or you might not have one at all.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between an ocular and visual migraine at times. To tell the difference between the two, all you have to do is cover one eye at a time. Remember that an ocular migraine only affects one eye while visual migraines affect both. Just pay attention to what you’re experiencing to narrow it down.
You should always talk to your eye doctor if you experience any form of vision loss. We’ll be able to tell you if it’s a temporary eye condition or something much more serious, such as a retinal detachment or glaucoma.
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Like classic migraines, the causes of ocular and visual migraines are difficult to pin down. However, it’s likely that a family history of migraines is a key risk factor. For instance, people tend to have a family history of migraines, and these eye conditions are no different.
Migraines experienced in the moment may be the result of inflammatory substances that are released in the brain. The pain-producing substances surround the nerves and blood vessels in your head, reducing blood flow or causing spasms in the retina or behind the eye. Unfortunately, experts aren’t sure why this process occurs.
Visual and Ocular Migraine Prevention
To help prevent visual and ocular migraines, it’s best to avoid migraine triggers. Triggers for both types include:
- Foods such as smoked meats and aged cheeses
- Caffeinated beverages
- Artificial sweeteners
- MSG and other processed foods
- Tobacco smoke
- Bright and flashing lights
These types of migraines can be prevented with medication. You can also keep track of your migraine attacks in a journal and what may have caused them. This can help you identify your triggers and avoid them altogether.
Migraines are often stress-related. To offset this, make sure that you’re eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep. You can also try stress-reducing activities such as massage and yoga. Anything that helps reduce your loss of vision or other symptoms is a good idea.
Ocular migraines result in vision loss in one eye from blind spots. Visual migraines have a migraine aura as well as other varying symptoms. Both types of migraines tend to last for less than an hour. Many people have a family history of migraines, but you can help prevent them through medication, avoiding your migraine triggers, and avoiding stress.
Are you concerned that you may be suffering from ocular or visual migraines? Contact us today to schedule an appointment and get the treatment you deserve!
Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has been serving Knoxville since 2009. Dr. Travis Thompson and Dr. Catherine Abbott specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide array of eye diseases, conditions, and problems and are committed to improving the quality of life in the Knoxville community through enhanced vision. Located at 10904 Spring Bluff Way, you can schedule an appointment online or give us a call at (865) 888-0892.