What is The Difference Between Visual and Ocular Migraine Headaches?

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by Dougherty Laser Vision

There are a few different types of visual migraine headaches that can affect our vision and ability to see clearly. The headache symptoms and visual impairment are typically painless or cause slight discomfort until they go away. The biggest issue is the loss of vision and the inability to see clearly.

Visual Migraine Headaches

Visual migraine headaches are characterized by a temporary visual impairment that generally occurs simultaneously in both eyes. Visual migraines can subside in about 30 minutes but can last longer, depending on other factors like stress levels, overall health, well-being, and so on.

Some of the more common symptoms associated with visual migraines include:

  • A spot in your field of vision that is completely blocked out and blind. The spot can gradually move across your field of vision, so it looks like a black spot is moving from one location to another.
  • A blind spot in your field of vision that flickers on and off. This blind spot is typically located in the center of your field of vision.
  • A ring of lights that creates a blind spot of a specific color located centrally in the field of vision. This symptom is where you can see clearly in the middle and outer parts, but there is a zigzagging circle where a section of your vision is blocked. The blind spot is colored instead of being black.

Another key symptom some people experience is experiencing an actual migraine headache after the visual migraine starts to dissipate and appears to be going away.

Ocular Migraine Headaches

Ocular migraine headaches are rarer than visual migraines. Ocular migraines cause a temporary loss of vision, including blindness in one eye. The loss of vision occurs when there is reduced blood flow in the eye. Blood vessel spasms in the retina can also trigger ocular migraines. Ocular migraines last about an hour on average. As they subside, vision gradually returns.

The key difference between visual and ocular migraines is that the loss of vision only occurs in one eye, not both. To tell whether you are experiencing an actual or a visual migraine, cover one eye and see if you notice a problem with your vision. Then cover the other eye and check again. If the vision problem is just in one eye, then it is an ocular migraine. If it is in both eyes, then it is a visual migraine.

The most common symptom associated with ocular migraines is a gradual appearance of a blind spot that affects your field of vision. The blind spot normally appears first in the center of the field of vision. As the migraine progresses, the blind spot grows, until the entire field of vision is blocked out.

You may also notice you experience an actual migraine headache either before, during, or shortly after an ocular migraine episode.

Treating Visual and Ocular Migraine Headaches

There are genetic and lifestyle factors that can cause visual and ocular migraines. Most times, these types of migraine headaches will resolve themselves within an hour or less.

However, if the frequency of visual and ocular migraine headache occurrences increases, then you should schedule a consultation with an eye surgeon or primary care doctor. Your doctor may also refer you to a neurologist for further testing.

Woman suffering from eye pains

Treatment options can include prescription medications and lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and so on.

If you are experiencing visual or ocular migraine headaches and want to discuss treatment options, please feel free to contact Dougherty Laser Vision at (805) 312-7671 to schedule a telehealth or in-office consultation today!

We have offices in Westlake VillageBeverly HillsCamarillo, San Luis Obispo, Encino, and Simi Valley. We offer a wide range of laser eye correction and laser eye surgery services, as well as treatment for cataracts, glaucoma, and other vision-related health conditions.