Even if you’re a frequent sufferer of migraines, you might not be so familiar with the term “ocular migraine.” According to the American Migraine Foundation, it’s a term that refers to a number of different migraine subtypes. All of the subtypes, however, are linked by one feature: they are all characterized by visual disturbances, including loss of vision, blind spots, zig-zags or stars. Here’s what you need to know about the two main types of ocular migraines, and what you should do if you experience one.
Migraine with aura
According to the American Migraine Foundation, 25 to 30 percent of people with migraines experience migraines with aura. It’s a subtype that impairs vision for a short period of time, causing vision disturbances such as light flashes, blind spots or stars. Luckily, migraine aura isn’t serious, and will usually build gradually and then fade after 20 to 60 minutes.
This subtype is a lot more serious, but also exceedingly more rare. The symptoms of retinal migraines are generally more intrusive than those associated with migraine aura including decreased vision, even temporary blindness. If you’re experiencing a retinal migraine, you’ll notice vision problems in only one eye, before or during the headache part of a migraine attack. The visual disturbances from retinal migraines might point to an underlying problem and, if left untreated, the vision loss might become irreversible. If you experience these symptoms, visit your doctor right away to prevent any long-term vision loss.
Causes of ocular migraines
According to WebMD, the causes of ocular migraines are still widely unknown. However, experts have linked the condition to spasms in blood vessels in the retina, which is the lining in the back of the eye. Other studies have associated ocular migraines with changes across the nerve cells in the retina.
How to treat ocular migraines
While symptoms from migraines can be painful and intrusive, they generally go away after a short period of time. If you experience migraines, know your triggers, and act accordingly: Remove yourself from bright sun, stay hydrated and keep your blood sugar in check. Also, certain medications, like NSAIDs, can help deal with the temporary symptoms of ocular migraines.