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Ocular Migraine

What is an ocular migraine?

An ocular migraine is a temporary problem with your vision that is usually, but not always, painless. You may lose some of your vision for a few minutes. You may see bright spots or lines that float slowly across your field of vision. Ocular migraines are almost always harmless.

How does it occur?

Usually an ocular migraine is not a problem with your eyes. The exact cause of migraines is not known. Migraines may be related to a problem with the blood flow in your brain or they may happen when brain chemicals don't stay balanced. Common migraine triggers include:

  • stress
  • tiredness
  • smoking
  • changes in the weather
  • bright lights.

Migraines tend to run in families.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of ocular migraines vary from person to person, and may include:

  • seeing zigzagging lines or patterns, especially at the outer edges of your vision
  • seeing shimmering or colored lights
  • loss of vision in one spot or off to one side

These symptoms happen in both eyes.

With typical migraine headaches, but uncommonly with ocular migraines, you can have severe pain following these symptoms. You may also have nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise.

How is it treated?

Ocular migraines usually need no treatment, other than rest until the symptoms pass.

Your healthcare provider may want to make sure that you have an ocular migraine and not a more serious blood flow problem.

See your healthcare provider if you have severe pain after the vision problems. This is probably a migraine headache and it can be treated.

How long do the effects last?

The vision problems usually go away in 30 minutes or less.

How can I prevent ocular migraines?

Ocular migraines cannot be prevented. It may help to avoid certain things that tend trigger your migraines. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine that you can take as soon as you start having symptoms of a migraine. The medicine will help keep headaches from becoming severe once they start.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-10-29
Last reviewed: 2010-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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