Ophthalmic migraines, also called retinal or ocular migraines, cause temporary disturbances in vision that usually affect only one eye. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and visual disturbances such as light sensitivity, floaters, mysterious reflections, blurred vision, double vision, or flashes of light that appear as jagged lines.
Ocular migraines occur when blood vessels in the brain constrict, reducing blood flow to the eyes. Although the exact cause is not well understood, migraines may have some basis in genetics, as 80% of sufferers have a family history of migraine. Stress and hormonal imbalances may also be a factor, as well as fatigue, emotional disturbances, certain medications or foods, excessive noise, and changes in the daily routine.
The flashes of light associated with ophthalmic migraines usually last from 10 to 20 minutes, but may last as long as 60 minutes. These visual disturbances may occur 1-2 times in a two to three week period, and recurrent episodes may not appear until months or even years later.
Ocular migraines can be frightening, but they are considered a temporary condition and are typically harmless. Damage to the retina and surrounding blood vessels may sometimes occur, but permanent vision loss is very rare.
Ophthalmic migraines are more common in women, people under the age of 40, and people with a family history of migraines. Certain health conditions, including lupus, epilepsy, depression, sickle cell disease, and hardening of the arteries may also contribute to ocular migraines.
Currently there is no known medical treatment for ophthalmic migraines, but patients should seek a quiet environment to relax and reduce stress if possible. If you notice any changes in vision, consult an opthalmologist as soon as possible.