Ocular migraines are visual phenomena that cause a temporary distortion in sight. They are suspected to be caused by benign changes in cerebral vascular circulation involving the visual part of the brain. The visual changes experienced during an ocular migraine are often described as seeing bright flashing, wavy lines, kaleidoscope, or heat waves. The vision loss or distortion may last from 10 minutes to over an hour. Frequently the patient notices no headache during or after after the visual event. In this case, it is truly an ocular, or ophthalmic, migraine. In some cases, however, the visual event is followed by a true migraine headache. In these cases the visual distortion is referred to as an “aura", which may herald the onset of a classical migraine headache.
It is theorized that ocular migraines and migraine headaches are due to sudden constriction and relaxation of the blood vessels in the brain. As a result, the blood flow to the visual area of the brain is affected and the patient notices a change in sight. The visual obscuration may involve the center of the vision, the peripheral vision, and often fluctuates during the event. Eventually the visual phenomena often break apart and disappear.
Though frightening, ocular migraines are usually harmless. The vision usually returns to normal almost immediately. Permanent vision loss is very rare and represents an underlying problem with the visual area of the brain. Treatment for this condition is not usually needed as the episodes tend to be very infrequent.
Please contact your Eye Consultants of Atlanta eye specialist to evaluate your eyes if you have these symptoms. Retinal problems often mimic ocular migraines, and it’s imperative to distinguish between the two causes. During the exam your doctor will do a complete eye examination to rule out any chance of a more serious problem.