Ocular migraines (also called retinal migraines or migraines with aura) occur when the small blood vessels leading to the eye suddenly constrict, reducing blood flow to the eye and causing temporary vision loss or even blindness in one eye.
These visual migraines are a rare form of migraines, affecting 1 in 200 migraine sufferers.
Usually, people experience ocular migraines as flashes of light or a gradual blurring or dimming of vision. In some cases, they may have a patchwork of blind spots that slowly expand until they completely block out vision.
Although these experiences can be quite scary, vision tends to go back to normal within 10 to 60 minutes. However, anyone who experiences ocular migraines should consult with their eye doctor to rule out a serious eye condition.
Risk Factors and Common Triggers of Ocular Migraines
Risk factors include:
- Being female
- Personal or family history of migraines or severe headaches
- Being under age 40
- Underlying illnesses such as lupus, sickle-cell disease or epilepsy
Common triggers of ocular migraines include:
- Excessive heat
- High blood pressure or low blood sugar
- Certain foods, such as artificial sweeteners and caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
- Preservatives, including nitrates, MSG and tyramine
Ocular migraines can also be a side effect of certain medications, including oral contraceptives.
When To Seek an Emergency Eye Exam
It’s important to have an emergency eye exam if your symptoms come on suddenly. This can signal the presence of a more serious, sight-threatening eye disease or the onset of a stroke.
Signs that indicate the need to seek emergency eye care include seeing:
- Flashes of light
- Zigzagging lines
- Bright or flickering stars
- Blind or black spots
- Psychedelic images
If you suddenly notice any of these signs above, contact your eye doctor immediately or visit the nearest emergency room.
For more information on ocular migraines, how they’re diagnosed and how they’re treated, contact us at in today!
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Want to Learn More? Read on!
Do Ocular Migraines Increase My Risk Of Stroke?
Yes. Studies have found that those who regularly experience ocular migraines — migraines with aura — are at roughly 3 times greater risk of suffering ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot obstructing an artery in the brain.
What are the major differences between ocular migraine and signs of stroke?
Two major differences between ocular migraine and stroke are how fast symptoms come on and which symptoms come first.
Ocular migraines come on slowly and add to your vision first (you’ll see auras, flashing lights, etc.), while strokes come on quickly and initially take things away (loss of feeling in your face or ability to speak, etc).