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Visual symptoms with migraines

Many migraine sufferers, experience visual disturbances.

Patients may experience problems with their vision, such as blindness, or seeing flashing and spots. This is a rare type of migraine – often called a retinal migraine, or ocular migraine. More often than not, these migraine sufferers’ visual disturbances accompany nausea or a headache.

What is the cause?

This particular type of migraine is due to hyper-sensitivity of the brainstem. Very often patients would have dysfunction in the upper cervical vertebrae, due to disc abnormality. This in turn affects the brainstem.
There are many neurones of cranial nerves on the brainstem, many of them being responsible for vision. As the brainstem is impacted due to sensitivity, when the visual input is received by the brain, integration centres in the brain interpret the visual input as something other than the actual input. Hence, patients with retinal migraines suffer from visual disturbances.

Visual impairment is described as a symptom of migraines when patients suffer from an attack.

Are there any risk factors for retinal migraines?

Yes. There are various ways that can exacerbate your symptoms and trigger a migraine attack. These may include:

  • smoking/tobacco use
  • low blood sugar
  • dehydration
  • high blood pressure
  • withdrawal from caffeine
  • being in environments of high altitudes, or hot temperatures
  • exercise with high intensity

Click here to view more factors and triggers for retinal migraine sufferers.

Furthermore, there is a population that are more prone to suffer from retinal migraines. This may include women, people under the age of 40, people with a family history of retinal migraines or headaches, or people with a medical history of headaches or migraines.

Are there any treatment options for retinal migraines?

Some doctors may prescribe sufferers with medication, such as Beta-blockers and NSAIDs. However, if you would rather alleviate your symptoms without medications, there are also headache and migraine practitioners who can help reduce symptoms of  retinal migraines. These treatment methods usually target pain relief, by performing careful and safe manual techniques.

What can I do, as a patient, to reduce my symptoms?

It is advised that patients minimise triggers of their migraines by eating healthy, having enough fluid intake and living a healthy, active life. Click here to see some great tips on how to live a healthier life.


Nichols, H. & Nichols, H. (2017). Retinal Migraine: Causes, Symptoms, and TreatmentMedical News Today. Retrieved 4 March 2017, from

Retinal migraine – NHS Choices. (2017). Retrieved 4 March 2017, from

Retinal Migraine: Symptoms, Treatment, and More. (2017). Healthline. Retrieved 4 March 2017, from

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