An ocular migraine is a temporary problem with your vision that is usually painless. The vision problems usually go away in 30 minutes or less. Ocular migraines are not the same as migraine headaches, although some people with migraine headaches also have vision symptoms before the headache starts.
What is the cause?
The exact cause of ocular migraines is not known. Usually an ocular migraine is not a problem with your eyes. Ocular migraines may be related to a problem with the blood flow in your brain or they may happen with changes in brain chemicals. Ocular migraines may have the same triggers as migraine headaches, such as:
Changes in the weather
Certain foods, such as red wine, cheese, or chocolate
MSG or food preservatives, such as nitrates
Ocular migraines tend to run in families.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of ocular migraines vary from person to person, and may include:
Seeing zigzagging lines or patterns, especially at the outer edges of your vision
Seeing shimmering or colored lights
Loss of vision in one spot or off to one side
These symptoms happen in both eyes.
Unlike migraine headaches, ocular migraines usually do not cause pain, nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and noise.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and symptoms, and examine you. Your healthcare provider may do some tests to make sure that you have an ocular migraine and not a more serious blood flow problem.
How is it treated?
Ocular migraines usually need no treatment, other than rest until the symptoms pass.
How can I take care of myself?
If you can, rest in a quiet room until the symptoms are gone.
Put a cool, moist washcloth on your closed eyes.
Don’t drive a car while you have the symptoms.
How can I help prevent ocular migraines?
Ocular migraines cannot be prevented. It may help to avoid things that tend trigger your symptoms such as foods or bright lights. A healthy lifestyle may help. For example:
Stay fit with the right kind of exercise for you.
Learn to manage stress.
If you smoke, try to quit. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to quit smoking.
If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2013-12-05 Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Ocular Migraine: References
American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2013-2014 Basic and Clinical Science Course. San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2013; v.1-13.
Miller NR, Newman NJ, Biousse V and Kerrison JB, eds. Walsh and Hoytâ€™s Clinical Neuro-Ophthalmology, 6th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2004;v.1-3.
Yanoff M and Duker JS. Ophthalmology, 4th edition. Philadelphia: Mosby, 2013.