Symptoms and Signs of Visual Migraines (Ocular Migraines)

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 11/4/2021

Doctor's Notes on Visual Migraines (Ocular Migraines)

Migraine headaches differ from regular tension headaches in that they cause incapacitating neurological symptoms. Migraine pain often occurs on just one side of the head but it may occur on both sides. Migraine attacks are often accompanied by visual disturbances.

Migraine symptoms that affect vision often occur with a migraine aura and include

  • blurred or absent areas in the visual field,
  • tunnel vision,
  • complete blindness,
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia),
    • an absent arc or band of vision with a shimmering or glittering zigzag border;
    • a sensation of lights, sparks, or colors;
  • visual hallucinations, and
  • uniform flashes of light.

Head pain from migraine headaches often occurs on one side of the head, but it may be present on both sides. Head pain usually has a slow onset and is typically described as throbbing or pulsing, but maybe a continuous ache.

Other symptoms of migraine headaches include

What Is the Treatment for Visual Migraines (Ocular Migraines)?

Treatment for the visual effects of migraine headaches includes removing migraine triggers, use of medications to prevent a migraine, and medical treatments to lessen the symptoms themselves.

Talk to your doctor about stopping any drugs that worsen the headache (Do not stop any medication without talking to your doctor first.) Migraine sufferers should avoid potential migraine triggers such as:

The following drugs have preventive effects when taken daily. They are mainly useful in people who have more than 1-2 headaches per week. Commonly used medications to prevent migraines include:

Medical therapies (oral medications, injections, or medical devices) prescribed for migraines are used to treat migraine symptoms and keep migraines from occurring. The most commonly used treatments for migraines include:

  • Triptans
  • Trigger point injections
  • OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox)
  • Anti-nausea medications (antiemetics) given in a shot or intravenous (IV)
  • Chlorpromazine, prochlorperazine, and diphenhydramine
  • Selective serotonin 1F receptor agonist
  • Lasmiditan (Reyvow)
  • Calcitonin-gene related peptide (CGRP) antagonists
  • Rimegepant (Nurtec)
  • Ubrogepant (Ubrelvy)
  • Ergotamine preparations
  • Dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal)
  • Ergotamine (Ergomar)
  • Neuromodulation
  • Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation 
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) 
  • Remote electrical neuromodulation 
  • Noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS) 
  • Peripheral nerve blocks
  • Occipital nerve blocks 
  • Sphenopalatine ganglion blocks 

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.