What Causes Ocular Migraines?

Migraines can be debilitating. Some may even cause visual disturbances. These ocular migraines can develop with or without a classic migraine. Symptoms include seeing: flashes of light, zigzagging lines, shimmering lights, stars, or blind spots. All of these symptoms can interfere with the ability to read, write, or drive. Though ocular migraines are not considered serious, they can be bothersome.

If you are someone who suffers from ocular migraines, you may be wondering what causes the condition to occur and what you can do to prevent them.

Is it an Ocular Migraine…or Something Else?

First, it’s important to recognize the difference between vision symptoms from a classic migraine and a true ocular migraine. It’s not uncommon for classic migraines to cause vision problems such as flashing lights and blind spots. The difference is that these symptoms generally occur in both eyes.

Ocular migraines, on the other hand, affect just one eye. Warning signs that one is about to occur are:

● Changes in vision in one eye
● Auras in one eye
● Headaches that last 4-72 hours on one side
● Throbbing or pulsating
● Sensitivity to light and sound
● Nausea
● Vomiting

Why Do Ocular Migraines Happen?

When a migraine comes on, it’s very upsetting. Some people know that they have hours of suffering ahead of them. These severe headaches can also affect the ability to work, drive, socialize, and more.

Though researchers aren’t completely sure, they believe that ocular migraines are caused by spasms in the blood vessels in the retina or changes in the nerve cells of the retina. Experts also believe that people with ocular migraines are at a slightly higher risk for permanent vision loss in one eye.

For now, there is no cure for ocular migraines, but it’s possible that tricyclic antidepressants, blood pressure medications or anti-seizure medications can help prevent vision loss. Immediate treatment includes taking a pain reliever and resting the eyes. Usually, symptoms improve within 30 minutes.

Other Conditions to Rule Out

It is possible that the lines and flashing lights that you are seeing are not ocular migraines after all. This is why it’s important to schedule an appointment with a qualified ophthalmologist. Some conditions that he or she will rule out include:

● Inflammation in the blood vessels
● A blockage in the arteries
● Spasms in the arteries
● Blood vessel problems from autoimmune conditions
● Sickle cell or polycythemia (conditions that won’t let the blood clot normally)

If you are concerned about ocular migraines in yourself or a loved one, call Empire Retina to schedule a consultation. As retina specialists, we can rule out other conditions and find a treatment that relieves your symptoms.