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How to Know If You Are Having an Ocular Migraine

Key symptoms distinguish retinal migraines from migraines with aura.

Retinal migraines — also known as “ocular migraines” — are rare, affecting approximately 1 in 200 people. They’re often confused with migraines with aura, though they’re actually very different.

The hallmark symptom of an ocular migraine is vision loss in one eye lasting less than an hour, and often in reoccurring bouts. It’s important to distinguish between vision impairment in one eye as opposed to one side of your field of vision; the latter being a symptom with aura. Like other migraine types, ocular migraines generally cause head pain for most. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to lights and sound. It should also be noted that vision loss in one eye can be a sign of a different, more serious issue; if you experience vision loss in one eye, consult a doctor immediately.

Ocular migraines aren’t fully understood by scientists. It’s thought that the vision impairment may be caused by a spasm of blood vessels around the eye, which cuts off blood flow. For some, ocular migraines may be precipitated by exercise.

Many triggers related to blood flow restriction could set off an ocular migraine, including stress, smoking, high blood pressure, high altitudes, dehydration, and more. Activities that strain the eyes – such as staring at a phone or computer screen for long periods, long exposure to fluorescent or harsh lighting, or driving long distances – may also become triggers.

Research on the best ocular migraine treatment is ongoing, but may include avoiding or limiting triggering factors in combination with pain relief medicine (aspirin, NSAIDs, anti-nausea) or doctor prescribed beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and anti-epileptics.

If you think you might be suffering from ocular migraines — or if you’re experiencing vision loss in any way — it’s best to see a doctor.

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