If you have a history of migraines, you may have also experienced visual disturbances in one or both eyes during an attack. Not only is this disruptive to your daily life, it can also be scary.
So why do migraines have an affect on vision, and is this serious or dangerous? First, it’s good to have an understanding of the different types of migraine. There are two main types: Migraine with aura, and migraine without aura. About 25% of people who experience migraines have the first kind, migraine with aura. This “aura” usually includes visual symptoms like flashes of light, blind spots, or wavy lines in your field of vision. Sometimes this type of migraine is referred to as an ocular migraine. The visual symptoms can hit even before the headache, warning you that the migraine is coming. Some people notice these kinds of symptoms coming on about 20 minutes prior to head pain, and they usually affect both eyes. While they can be uncomfortable and frightening, they are harmless.
Ocular migraine vs. retinal migraine: Is there a difference?
There is a subtype of migraine that is distinguished by visual disturbances or temporary loss of vision in one eye, rather than in both eyes. This is called a retinal migraine, and it tends to occur when the blood vessels that nourish the eye narrow. Retinal migraines are very rare and you might experience seeing twinkling lights, blind spots, or vision loss in one eye. To determine whether or not you have a migraine with aura or retinal migraine, try this test: If you cover one eye, you may notice these symptoms, but if you cover the other eye, your vision could be totally fine. Symptoms of retinal migraine are short-lived. When blood flow returns to the retina, your vision will return to normal.
What to do about migraines and vision problems
There are a number of things you can do about migraine, from taking medication to avoiding certain triggers. If you have frequent migraines, it’s best to see a doctor to learn more about what might be causing them and what your doctor recommends for treatment. Some of the symptoms associated with retinal migraines might actually be symptoms of a more serious problem with your eyes. Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are two conditions that can cause sudden vision loss in one eye. If you experience these symptoms, you should see an eye doctor as soon as possible to rule out these kinds of eye diseases. Are you experiencing trouble with your vision or eye pain? We’re here to help. Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor today.