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Health & Wellness

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Get the facts on ocular migraines

While many people are familiar with the term "migraine headache," few may have experienced an ocular migraine. Ocular migraines, sometimes referred to as "eye migraines," are often harmless and may disappear rather quickly.

The organization All About Vision defines ocular migraines as painless, temporary visual disturbances that usually affect one eye. Ocular migraines can be disturbing because of their symptoms. People experiencing ocular migraines may experience scintillations, or bright flashing lights or flickering. Wavy lines surrounding an enlarging blind spot (scotoma) also can occur. Blind spots may start small but quickly grow bigger and move across one's field of vision.

Sometimes an ocular migraine is accompanied by a migraine headache and certain symptoms, such as light sensitivity and nausea, that are associated with migraine headaches. The National Institutes of Health notes that, if an ocular migraine is accompanied by a headache, the pain from the migraine is often located on the same side of the head as the eye that is experiencing the ocular


Migraines in general are not well understood, and the same can be said for ocular migraines. The causes ocular migraines is not exactly known, but it is thought to be related to constricted blood vessels in the eye, possibly in the retina.

The Mayo Clinic says that while visual sensations associated with ocular migraines can induce anxiety and interfere with certain activities, the condition usually is not considered serious and can ease up within 20 to 30 minutes. Some people do not even realize their symptoms may be migraine-related because of the lack of associated headache.

Several more serious conditions can cause similar symptoms to the relatively benign ocular migraine. Men and women who frequently experience visual disturbances should consult with an expert who can rule out other ailments. Everything from an embolism to tumors of the eye to optic neuropathy may produce symptoms similar to ocular migraines.

If an ocular migraine is a one-time occurrence, sufferers need not worry. However, any vision problems should be investigated fully to determine if any underlying conditions are present and to safeguard against any long-term vision loss.