What Causes Ocular Migraines?

Reviewed on 7/1/2021

Ocular migraines are a type of migraine that causes vision changes such as small blind spots, vision loss, flashes of light, zig-zag lines, or seeing stars. The cause of ocular migraines is unknown, but may be caused by abnormal brain activity. Risk factors include genetics and hormones.
Ocular migraines are a type of migraine that causes vision changes such as small blind spots, vision loss, flashes of light, zig-zag lines, or seeing stars. The cause of ocular migraines is unknown, but may be caused by abnormal brain activity. Risk factors include genetics and hormones.

An ocular migraine is a subtype of migraine characterized by vision changes including small blind spots, vision loss, flashes of light, zig-zag lines, or seeing stars. Unlike other types of migraine, ocular migraines are not always accompanied by head pain.

Ocular migraine is a term also used to refer to a retinal migraine, a form of migraine in which visual disturbances occur in just one eye before the headache phase of a migraine attack. 

It is unknown what causes ocular migraines, but it is thought that migraine auras are a result of abnormal electrical activity involving the outer surface (cortex) of the brain. 

Risk factors for migraines include: 

  • Genetics
  • Hormones

Triggers for ocular migraine may include: 

  • Visual triggers
    • Extensive time spent staring at a screen
    • Driving long distances 
    • Fluorescent or other harsh lighting 
    • Bright or flickering lights
    • Taxing visual activities 
  • Certain food products and food additives 
    • Dairy products
    • Nuts
    • Chocolate
    • Caffeine
    • Alcoholic beverages (especially red wine)
    • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
    • Processed meat containing nitrates
    • Aged or smoked cheese
    • Pickled products
    • Onions
    • Avocados
    • Artificial sweeteners
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfume
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Low blood sugar
  • High altitude

What Are Symptoms of an Ocular Migraine?

Symptoms of ocular migraines usually last less than 30 minutes and are characterized by vision disturbances in one or both eyes such as:

  • Blind spots, especially in the central part of the visual field
  • “Aura” around objects
  • Bright lines 
  • Flickering lights
  • Flashes of light
  • Zig-zag lines
  • Seeing stars or patterns
  • Other minor sight issues 

Ocular migraines may or may not be accompanied by head pain. 


 

What Is the Treatment for an Ocular Migraine?

Treatment for ocular migraine includes: 

  • Lifestyle modifications
    • Rest your eyes
    • Get out of bright sunlight or other harsh lighting
    • Take breaks from looking at screens
    • Avoid migraine triggers 
    • Don’t smoke
    • Avoid use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy
    • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
    • Get enough sleep
    • Stress reduction, such as yoga and massage
  • Medications

QUESTION

A migraine is a result of neurological (nerve) dysfunction. See Answer

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Reviewed on 7/1/2021
References
https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-ocular-migraine/

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1142731-overview#a16

https://www.mymed.com/diseases-conditions/ocular-migraine-retinal-or-ophthalmic-migraine/diagnosing-ocular-migraine

https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/retinal-migraine/

https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/ocular-migraine.htm