Ocular migraines are painless, temporary visual disturbances in the visual cortex of the brain that can affect one or both eyes. They usually occur either with symptoms of a classic migraine or independently after an attack.

What causes ocular migraines?

Physiologically, experts are not certain what causes ocular migraines. Some believe the problem is related to spasms of the blood vessels in the eye and changes in the nerve cell function within the eye.

Many patients are able to identify specific causes in their daily lives but recent medical research has found that a combination of triggers actually induces a migraine. These may include:
bright lights
loud sounds
pungent odors
stress, anxiety, relaxation after a period of stress
fluctuating weather
alcoholic beverages
too much caffeine or withdrawal from caffeine
foods containing nitrates (hot dogs, luncheon meats)
foods containing MSG (fast foods, seasonings, spices, broths)
foods containing tyramine (aged cheeses, hard sausages, smoked fish, soy)
artificial sweeteners

What are some treatment options?

Ocular migraines usually go away on their own within 30 minutes to 1 hour after the onset. If a patient is experiencing ocular migraine pain, the best advice would be the following:
lie down or sit in a dark, quiet room
massage the scalp with pressure
put pressure on temples (side of the forehead)
put a damp towel over the forehead

A pain reliever could be taken such as ibuprofen or aspirin. A physician would be able to prescribe stronger medications if needed.

So, are ocular migraines another term for migraines with aura?

Ocular migraine is a term that has gained currency among medical professionals. It has been somewhat debatable whether it is a singular term or a general term with other related conditions categorized underneath it.

A migraine with aura would fall into that category. It includes a variety of sensations — often visual, but may include other sensations, such as numbness — that precede or accompany a migraine. Twenty percent of all migraines are migraine with aura. It is a common condition that can temporarily inhibit daily activities and rarely serious. The visual symptoms, similar to ocular migraines, are short lasting and might include:
Zig-zagging patterns
Blind spots
Shimmering spots
Flashes of light

Are there any differences?

One main difference is that an ocular migraine may or may not affect both eyes unlike a migraine with aura. There is a rare eye condition, called retinal migraine, that involves repeated bouts of short–lasting, diminished vision or blindness, specifically of one eye. These bouts may precede a headache. Most often, if one eye involvement is noted, it is regarded as a potential serious condition.

Have you seen our research on Migraine Headache?

If you suffer from migraines or know someone who does, please take a moment to read our latest research.