Ophthalmic migraine is quite common. Patients usually experience visual symptoms of seeing bright zig-zag type lines in their central or peripheral (side) vision. You may see flashing or shimmering lights, an aura, or blank areas in your vision. Some people describe “psychedelic” images. There are many variations on these visual disturbances.

These symptoms usually resolve spontaneously after several minutes and very rarely can last up to an hour. Ocular migraines can temporarily interfere with your ability to perform tasks like reading, writing, or driving. Ocular migraine is not considered a serious condition and medical treatment is usually not necessary.

Sometimes there can be a headache after the visual symptoms resolve. Some people report a mild nauseous feeling. Some people get migraine headaches without the visual symptoms, and others experience the visual symptoms without the headache, which is called ophthalmic migraine. The cause is believed to be a temporary spasm in the blood vessels behind the eye, similar to a spasm or cramp that you may have experienced in one of your leg muscles.

Experiencing an ophthalmic migraine for the first time can be quite scary, so you should speak to your optometrists office describing your particular symptoms and schedule a visit to rule out any other causes. Also if the episode lasts an hour or longer, or the symptoms are recurring on a frequent basis, you should seek medical attention.

Sometimes there are genetic tendencies or hormonal influences involved. Some common triggers are: bright lights, loud sounds, powerful odors, stress, anxiety, alcoholic beverages, caffeine, nitrates or seasonings in food and artificial sweeteners. Ophthalmic migraine can also be a symptom of an underlying condition.

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