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5900 Heckert Rd.
P.O. Box 324
Bakerstown, PA 15007
724-443-6767 Phone
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Natrona Heights, PA 15065
724-226-0444 Phone
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Understanding Migraines and Vision Loss: Exploring Ocular Migraine Types

Migraines are debilitating headaches that affect millions of people worldwide. While most associated with severe head pain, migraines can also involve various visual disturbances, including temporary vision loss. These episodes, known as ocular migraines, can be frightening and confusing for those experiencing them.

What are Migraines and Vision Loss?

Migraines are neurological conditions characterized by recurring severe headaches often accompanied by other symptoms. Vision loss or visual disturbances are common occurrences during a migraine attack, affecting approximately 20% of migraine sufferers. These visual disturbances can manifest in various ways, including temporary blindness, blurred or distorted vision, zigzag lines, flashing lights, and blind spots. While vision loss can be alarming, it typically resolves within minutes to an hour.

Types of Ocular Migraines:

Ocular Migraine without Headache:

This type of ocular migraine, also known as a retinal migraine, is characterized by temporary vision loss or blindness in one eye. These episodes may last less than an hour and are typically painless. Although rare, they can be caused by a sudden decrease in blood flow or blood vessel spasms in the eye.

Ocular Migraine with Aura:

Ocular migraines with aura involve visual disturbances that precede or accompany the headache phase of a migraine attack. The aura typically appears as shimmering or flickering lights, zigzag patterns, or blind spots in the visual field. These visual symptoms can last for several minutes to an hour and are followed by a headache.

Persistent Aura without Infarction (Visual Snow Syndrome):

Visual Snow Syndrome is a rare condition characterized by persistent visual disturbances. People with this condition experience a constant overlay of flickering dots or static-like visual snow in their entire visual field. It is often associated with other migraine symptoms but may persist even in the absence of a headache.

Causes of Migraines and Vision Loss:

The exact causes of migraines and vision loss are not fully understood, but several factors can contribute to their occurrence. Some common triggers include:

Genetic Predisposition: Migraines and ocular migraines tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic component in their development.

Vascular Changes: Migraine attacks are associated with changes in blood flow and blood vessel dilation in the brain and ocular structures. These changes can disrupt normal visual processing and lead to visual disturbances.

Hormonal Fluctuations: Many women experience migraines associated with hormonal changes, such as during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. These hormonal fluctuations can trigger ocular migraines and vision loss.

Environmental Factors: Certain environmental factors, including bright lights, strong odors, loud noises, and weather changes, can act as triggers for migraines and ocular migraines in susceptible individuals.

Managing Ocular Migraines:

While ocular migraines can be distressing, they are usually benign and do not cause permanent vision loss. However, if you experience vision loss or visual disturbances for the first time, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention to rule out other serious conditions.

Here are some general strategies for managing ocular migraines:

Identify Triggers: Keep a diary to identify potential triggers and avoid them whenever possible.

Lifestyle Modifications: Maintain a regular sleep schedule, manage stress levels, exercise regularly, and ensure a balanced diet to minimize the frequency and intensity of migraines.

Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help alleviate symptoms during a migraine attack. In severe cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe specific medications to manage and prevent migraines.

Relaxation Techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help reduce stress and tension, potentially decreasing the likelihood of migraines.

If you are concerned about ocular migraines give our office a call to ensure an accurate diagnosis and rule out other potential causes. By understanding the triggers and adopting preventive measures, individuals can effectively manage migraines and reduce the frequency and intensity of ocular migraines, improving their overall quality of life. Remember, early intervention and proper self-care are crucial in dealing with migraines and associated vision loss.

About Bissell Eye Care: John D. Bissell, OD owns and operates Bissell Eye Care servicing Northern Pittsburgh and Alle-Kiski Valley regions. With two locations to treat patients, we offer evening and Saturday appointments. Bissell Eye Care provides comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family beginning as early as 6 months, ocular disease detection and treatment, eyeglasses, sunglasses, activewear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. We accept most types of vision and health insurance plans. For more Information, visit or call our Bakerstown Office at 724-443-6767 or Natrona Heights office at 724-226-0444.