A Guide to Ocular Migraine Vs Visual Migraine: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Some people may have episodes of temporary blindness, appearances of shattered glass, or the sensation of looking through a cracked window in their vision but they do not know what that phenomenon is called. Let us tell you what that might be.

Temporary blindness in one eye or distorted vision may be caused by reduced blood flow in the retina or behind the eye. This is medically known as ocular migraines. This may also be caused by spasms in the blood vessels of the retina or the rear area of the eye.

In a rare condition like ocular migraine, normal vision usually returns within an hour or so. However, it may be accompanied by a severe migraine headache, or for some, it could be painless.

Although ocular migraine and visual migraine are being used interchangeably, they might actually have different meanings.
Now let’s take a closer look at ocular migraines and visual migraines:

What is the Difference Between Ocular Migraine and Visual Migraine?

Generally, ocular migraine temporarily affects only one eye. It is a much more common condition compared to migraine aura. Migraine aura or also known as visual migraine, on the other hand, affects both eyes.

The similarity between both of these conditions is that they have the same visual disturbances such as flashes of light, zigzagging patterns, or appearances of shattered glass that may or may not be accompanied by a headache.

A Guide to Ocular Migraine Vs Visual Migraine: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Ocular Migraine and Migraine Aura Symptoms

Ocular migraine symptoms normally start with a blind spot at the center of your vision in one eye. In a matter of minutes, this blind spot may appear to be larger which makes it hard to do normal activities such as driving or reading.

In severe cases, the entire vision of one eye is compromised. But, these episodes of ocular migraine usually lasts an hour or so.

Visual migraine symptoms have different variations which may include:

A flashing blind spot at or near the center of your vision
A shattered glass-looking zig-zag ring of light that surrounds the center of a blind spot
A blind spot that slowly takes up the whole visual field including both eyes

All these symptoms of visual migraine must affect both eyes, or else will be categorized under ocular migraine if it only affects one eye. These symptoms usually last approximately half an hour. Similar to an ocular migraine, visual migraine or migraine aura may or may not be accompanied by a headache.

How to Distinguish a Visual Migraine From an Ocular Migraine?

Some people find it hard to distinguish whether these symptoms of visual disturbances are affecting one or both their eyes especially if they are also distracted by a severe headache. Covering one eye at a time can help identify which eye is being affected.

However, doing this does not make it a diagnosis. These symptoms could still be something else and more serious such as retinal detachment. Do not take your chances. If any of these symptoms suddenly attacks, pause all that you are doing, especially if you are driving. Pull up to the safe side of the road and consult your eye doctor immediately.

What Are the Causes of Ocular and Visual Migraines?

According to medical experts, ocular migraines are triggered by the same causes of migraine headaches. Migraine headaches may be genetically acquired from your family line. It may also be triggered by deprivation in sleep and water. Dehydration is often overlooked as a migraine trigger.

The other usual migraine triggers are mainly on food. Aged cheese, caffeine, red wine, chocolates, smoked meats, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and artificial sweeteners can trigger migraines in some people. Some causes may also include tobacco, strong odors, flickering or glaring lights, and emotional stress.

Imaging studies revealed that there are disruptions in blood flow to the brain during episodes of ocular and visual migraines. Nevertheless, the causes behind this change in blood flow remain unknown.

A Guide to Ocular Migraine Vs Visual Migraine: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

What Are the Treatments for Ocular and Visual Migraines?

In most cases, these visual disturbances and headaches usually go away by themselves in a matter of minutes. The best way to deal with these migraines is to manage its triggers. If you had a migraine episode while doing important activities, it is best to pause and relax until your vision comes back to normal.

If you encounter visual disturbances that occur with severe migraine headaches, call your doctor right away for the right diagnosis and treatment. This may be an underlying symptom of a more complicated medical emergency.

Seeing a neurologist may also help rule out the possible reasons for the unbearable symptoms you are experiencing. Your doctor may prescribe the latest medicines for curing migraines, such as the latest drugs to prevent future migraine attacks.

How to Prevent Future Visual and Ocular Migraine

One of the most effective ways to prevent future attacks of visual and ocular migraines is to manage its causes. Keeping a journal of your diet and activities prior to visual and ocular migraine attacks can help identify the potential triggers.

If in case your ocular migraines or migraine auras are being triggered by stress such as emotional stress, you might be able to prevent future attacks even without medicine. You only have to opt for a healthier lifestyle. Here are the following steps you could consider:

  • Have an ample amount of rest
  • Do not forget to take a break
  • Eat healthy meals regularly
  • Avoid known migraine triggers
  • Have plenty of sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Do some stress-busters like yoga and massage

HAVING VISUAL DISTURBANCES? Do not take chances. Contact your eye doctor immediately.

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