Chapter 1, Episode 6: What is Ocular Migraine?


This content has been medically reviewed by Dr. Rani Banik.

Ocular migraine is a rare condition also known as “retinal migraine” or retinal vasospasm

An ocular migraine attack typically begins with symptoms in one eye such as blind spots, temporary vision loss and/or flashes of light. 

The symptoms usually occur for 10-20 minutes but may last up to one hour. Vision will return to normal slowly, often pixelated as it gets better. Afterwards, some people may develop a headache or a dull pain behind or around the eye.

It is important to differentiate ocular migraine from visual aura of migraine. Visual aura affects vision in both eyes. It may begin with a dark or blind spot in the central area of vision that can shimmer. The visual disturbance may occupy half of the visual field and then drift away into the periphery. Some people might see geometric shapes moving in color or black and white, similar to a kaleidoscope or zig-zag pattern.

Migraine with aura and ocular migraine can be differentiated by closing one eye, followed by the other eye to determine if symptoms occur in one or both eyes. 

While visual aura of migraine comes from changes in the brain, ocular migraine is thought to be caused by blood vessels in the retina constricting or going into spasm. 

A diagnostic test does not exist for ocular migraine. It is usually diagnosed by clinical presentation and ruling out more serious conditions such as stroke, bleeding in the brain, or clots that may arise from the heart or neck. 

A very rare complication that can result from ocular migraine is permanent vision loss.

Factors that may trigger ocular migraine include: dehydration, stress, lack of sleep, and caffeine. Therefore, lifestyle interventions can often be effective in reducing the return of symptoms. If symptoms of ocular migraine occur frequently, then preventive medications can be utilized.

Recommended preventive medications for ocular migraine are blood pressure medications such as calcium channel blockers or beta blockers. Both of these medications decrease spasm of the blood vessels

People who experience regular ocular migraine attacks should seek out a neuro-ophthalmologist, a physician who specializes in both neurology and the eye.

This video is sponsored in part by Amgen, AbbVie, Lundbeck, and Collegium Pharmaceutical.

*The contents of this video are intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. AMD does not recommend or endorse any treatment, products, or procedures mentioned. Reliance on any information provided by this content is solely at your own risk.