Ocular migraines will usually precede a migraine attack. The symptoms can be wildly different but they are all telling you the same thing.
Why you should care about ocular migraines, what they are, and why they are affecting you
After listening to migraine sufferers and others who describe what they consider to be ocular migraines, here is my take.
- They represent yet another symptom that needs your immediate attention
- Similar to other symptoms, you need to heed your body’s own signals because we are all different.
- The visual disturbance provides a clue as to when you might expect the migraine to occur. This can provide you with options on how to deal with, and abort, your own migraine much earlier.
- It can be serious. You should consult an eye doctor.
What an ocular migraine is and is not
An ocular, or ophthalmic, migraine normally tends to occur before the migraine actually strikes. I have noticed people complain of pain above their eye, which they then describe as an ocular migraine. This is generally not the case. Rather, when the pain occurs right above the eye on either side, the “standard” migraine has started.
If you experience any kind of visual disturbance that exist temporarily, and usually before a migraine, then that is defined as an ocular migraine. The images below are simply meant to provide an idea of how a visual disturbance might look. For example, they could be:
1. Bright, shimmering lights in the distance
2. Bright, flickering dots around your peripheral vision
3. Blurred patterns around your vision
The term ocular migraine needs modification
I find the phrase “ocular migraine” itself to be a misnomer. It is more appropriate to call the symptom an “ocular or visual disturbance” or “aura” because it is not a migraine and generally does not have pain associated with it. Yes – pain can occur simultaneously, which means that you are experiencing both a migraine and a visual disturbance. However, it is more common that you experience the aura preceding a migraine and not during a migraine episode.
Retinal migraines, on the other hand, are more serious and should not be confused with ocular migraines. As the name implies, symptoms occur in the retina, and specifically in one eye. This is different from ocular migraines, where the symptoms take place in the outer brain and affect your vision across both eyes.
How to stop an ocular migraine
I am not trying to be flippant here but the way you reduce your incidence of ocular migraines is the same way you reduce your overall incidence of migraines. You need to get to the bottom of why you experience migraines in the first place. However, once you do, symptoms, including visual disturbance, will start to recede. Resorting to medication is generally only going to temporarily mask a possible worsening of your condition.
For years, I ingested pain killers, designed to depress the symptoms I was experiencing. While the meds worked in the beginning, my body was eventually unable to keep up. I started increasing the dosage without much success. We all eventually hit a wall and start searching for other medicinal alternatives. But the alternatives are not always gentle on our bodies.
Don’t sweep symptoms under the rug. Instead, bring them to the fore so that they can be assessed. Anything that affects your eyes must be taken seriously and it is usually a good idea to see an eye specialist to make sure that your ocular migraine is not something more.