Ocular migraines are migraines that involve visual disturbance. Below. we discuss what triggers an ocular migraine and other helpful info about them.
Oftentimes, people who experience ocular migraines see “stars,” flashing or shimmering lights, or zigzagging lines. Some even experience seeing psychedelic images during an ocular migraine. And there are times when it can cause blind spots in your field of vision. These symptoms are often temporary.
One out of every five people who have migraines experience ocular migraines. And they should not to be taken lightly.
While it is not considered as a serious condition, this type of migraine can interfere with your daily life. It may cause poor performance at work, interfere with your driving, writing or reading and social life.
Ocular vs Retinal Migraines
Ocular migraines are not to be confused with retinal migraines. Many people think these are the same. However, these are two very different conditions.
Retinal migraine is much more serious.
In retinal migraine, you may experience loss of vision in one eye. It is a rare type of migraine and it only affects one eye. However, it can signal a much more serious underlying medical condition.
If you experience retinal migraines, it’s best to seek professional help right away. This will help rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Symptoms of Ocular Migraines
Additionally, ocular migraines are often associated with aura as well. Some experience an aura before a migraine sets in. Aura symptoms often include:
- Seeing blind spots as we mentioned above, shimmering spots
- Temporary disruption in senses such as smell, touch and taste
- Feeling fuzzy
- Numbness in the hands or the face
Not everyone with ocular migraine experiences aura.
What Triggers an Ocular Migraine?
Similar to a normal migraine, the causes of an ocular migraine are still unknown. However, doctors and researchers suspect that genetics play a huge factor. Having a family history of ocular migraine increases your chances of getting them as well.
In addition to that, doctors theorize that hormonal changes and hormone levels also play a part in triggering ocular migraines. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, or during pregnancy and menopause, a woman’s hormone often fluctuates. And it may cause an imbalance in the estrogen levels. Estrogen is a hormone that controls chemicals in the brain which affects the sensation of pain.
There are also other triggers to migraines. And those who experience them can usually pinpoint what triggers the migraine for them.
The triggers vary from person to person, but it may include at least one or a combination of the following:
- Bright lights
- Strobe lights
- Blinking lights
- Loud sounds
- Powerful smell or odor
- The change in the weather
- Too much caffeine or even caffeine withdrawal
- Alcoholic beverages
- Food with high nitrates such as luncheon meats and hot dogs
- Artificial sweeteners
- Food with tyramine such as soy products, hard sausages, aged cheese and etc.
- Food with high monosodium glutamate or MSG
Doctors recommend keeping a diary of your headaches or migraines to help identify the triggers. You should also include notes about your sleeping habits, diet, exercise and menstruation.
Guide to Migraines
This article is part of our Guide to Migraine Treatments and Causes.
Check out the next topic in this series: ER Migraine Treatment: What To Expect