A migraine that involves visual disturbance is called an ocular migraine. During an ocular migraine, or migraine with aura, you may see flashing or shimmering lights, zigzagging lines, or stars. If you’re experiencing these symptoms you should call your eye doctor to schedule an eye exam.
If an ocular migraine-like vision disturbance is followed by a throbbing, usually one-sided headache, this is called a "migraine with aura", and the visual disturbance is referred to as an aura rather than an ocular migraine.
Many people are able to identify ocular migraine triggers, but research has shown that it is more likely a combination of factors that trigger ocular migraines. Triggers may include:
- bright lights
- loud sounds
- powerful odors
- stress, anxiety, relaxation after a period of stress
- changing weather
- alcoholic beverages, especially red wine
- too much caffeine or withdrawal from caffeine
- foods containing additives such as MSG or nitrates
Because they generally are harmless and typically resolve on their own within a half hour, ocular migraines usually require no treatment.
If you experience visual disturbances that are part of a migraine with aura you should have a comprehensive eye exam to rule out sight-threatening conditions such as a detached retina, which requires immediate attention.
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