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Visual disturbances with migraine headaches are quite common. Auras that precede or occur at the same time as migraine headaches can include visual symptoms that include flashes of light, blind or shimmering spots, kaleidoscope or zigzag patterns in your field of vision. However, some people experience these visual disturbances without the pain of a migraine headache. This is referred to as an ocular or ophthalmic migraine.

Ocular migraine symptoms usually include:

  • Scotoma , a blind spot that gradually increases in size
  • Scintillations, flickering or flashing lights
  • Metamorphopsia ¸ shimmering zigzag lines

These effects can occur individually or in combination.

Typically, the vision in only one eye is affected, and these visual disturbances are consistent from one episode to the next. When an ophthalmic migraine interferes with the vision, patients should take some safety precautions. For example, if driving, the patient should pull over to the side of the road and wait for it to pass. Simply sitting down and waiting for it to pass should help prevent any physical harm that could come as a result of vision distortion. The best way to avoid ocular migraines is to avoid known triggers. These might include strong lights, certain foods, stress, overexertion, and sleep deprivation.

The symptoms of an ocular migraine can mimic those of other serious conditions such as retinal detachment , retinal artery thrombosis (a clot in one of the vessels that supplies blood to the retina), transient ischemic attacks (temporary loss of blood flow to areas of the brain), or stroke. A helpful first step is a visit to the ophthalmologist, who can rule out any disorders of the delicate and irreplaceable retina at the back of the eye as well as evaluate the optic nerve for any pathology.

If you would like to learn more about ocular migraines, contact your eye specialist, or call us at Shanbom Eye Specialist.