Ocular migraines are migraines that cause visual symptoms, which can be with or without other symptoms such as a headache itself.
What is an Ocular Migraine?
An ocular migraine can be quite complex to diagnose as it crosses over with various other types of migraine. 25-30% of people will suffer from migraine with aura, but usually as a one off occurrence. Some doctors will diagnose this as migraine with aura, others will refer to them as ocular migraines. Those who suffer from ocular migraines without the pain or headache itself will sometimes be referred to as silent migraines. For accurate treatment, it is important that patient’s receive a correct diagnosis, as this condition can be very disruptive and debilitating. Visual symptoms may last between 10 to 30 minutes at a time, longer than this is uncommon.
- Temporary flashes of stars, zig-zag lines, or other patterns in the field of vision
- Bright/blind spot starting in the centre of vision, which may spread to cover up to half of the visual field
- Slurred speech and impaired motor skills
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Tingling or numbness, normally on one side of the body
- intense pain (pulsating or throbbing) in one or both sides of the head, which worsens with activity
What causes Ocular Migraines?
Aura is said to develop due to abnormal electrical activity on the outer surface of the brain, which spreads to the visual cortex/lobe, resulting in varying affects on vision. It is not known what causes some people to experience aura and others not, but the triggers remain similar to those who experience other types of migraine. These include:
- Certain foods
- Poor lighting
- Looking at screens for extended periods
- Anxiety or stress
A condition similar to ocular migraines is retinal migraines. Retinal migraines can lead to severe, irreversible vision loss, meaning that accurate diagnosis really is critical in this population. If any rapid/severe vision loss, temporary blinding or loss only in one eye occurs, a medical professional should be contacted immediately.
As per all migraines, if sufferers do not seek treatment for ocular migraines, they may experience chronic daily migraines. This can be largely disruptive to daily life.
Migraine with aura is thought to be associated with increased risk of suffering a stroke, particularly in women.
Treatment includes but is not limited to identifying and avoiding individual triggers and visiting a medical professional. The Brisbane Headache and Migraine Clinic treats people with ocular migraines using a medication free approach, with largely positive outcomes.
If you are or know someone who is suffering from ocular migraines, call us on 1800 HEADACHE or email [email protected] to book an appointment for a careful assessment, diagnosis and treatment today!