There are a number of different types of migraines that individuals suffer from, but ocular migraines – although not as serious as some others – are certainly among the most disruptive, as they can cause severe visual impairment, albeit only temporarily.
Just to make things more confusing, the ocular migraine can also be referred to as a retinal migraine, an ophthalmic migraine, an ophthalmoplegic migraine or even migraine with aura since it does cause visual abnormalities. In fact, the International Headache Society doesn’t even recognize the term “Ocular Migraine” and it is used vaguely even in the medical community. Whatever terminology the physicians use instead of “ocular migraines”, the characteristics are the same: The occurrences usually don’t last long (maybe a half an hour); they often cause no pain, and if they do, it is usually centered behind one eye; there may be associated nausea and even vomiting; and there are visual impairments which rarely become permanent.
Since the symptoms of ocular migraines can be associated with other illnesses, it is often misdiagnosed and can leave physicians looking for a detached retina, a blood clot or a pituitary tumor. As is the case with so many migraines, a specific cause has not been found for this type, but is believed that the ocular migraine is most likely caused by a spasm in a blood vessel in the brain. This disrupts the blood flow to one of the eyes and causes a variety of visual abnormalities, such as blurred vision, blind spots, speckles of light or zigzagged lines. Some individuals who suffer from ocular migraines also experience double vision, though this symptom is much rarer.
Since the duration of an ocular migraine is short, its treatment is simple; Tylenol, ibuprofen, or other over the counter pain relievers can help deal with any discomfort as well as shorten the episode. Other than that, just close your eyes and rest until it passes. If you happen to be driving or doing something else that is critical when your attack occurs, get to a safe location and wait until your vision clears up. Of course if these episodes become more regular, you will want to contact your physician, since your specific situation may call for other treatment options.