Ocular migraine: When to seek help

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Ocular migraine: When to seek help


What is an ocular migraine? Is it a sign of something serious?

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The term "ocular migraine" can be confusing. It's sometimes used to refer to two different conditions, one of which usually isn't cause for concern, and the other which might have more-serious complications.

Migraine aura involving your vision
In some cases, ocular migraine describes a migraine aura that involves your vision. Migraine auras include a variety of sensations — often visual, but which also may include other sensations, such as numbness — that precede or accompany a migraine. Aura can sometimes occur without an associated headache.

A migraine aura that affects your vision is common. Visual symptoms are short lasting. A migraine aura involving your vision will affect both eyes, and you may see:

  • Flashes of light
  • Zigzagging patterns
  • Blind spots
  • Shimmering spots or stars

These symptoms can temporarily interfere with certain activities such as reading or driving, but the condition usually isn't considered serious.

Retinal migraine
Sometimes, ocular migraine is used as a synonym for the medical term "retinal migraine." A retinal migraine is a rare condition occurring in a person who has experienced other symptoms of migraine. Retinal migraine involves repeated bouts of short-lasting, diminished vision or blindness. This may precede or accompany a headache.

A retinal migraine — unlike a migraine aura affecting vision — will affect only one eye, not both. However, most often, loss of vision in one eye isn't related to migraine. It's generally caused by some other more serious condition. So if you experience visual loss in one eye, be sure to see an eye specialist.

Last Updated: 2011-09-15
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