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Have you ever experienced a strange kaleidoscope or flickering light show in your field of vision, seemingly out of nowhere? While it may have felt like a scene straight out of a psychedelic film, these visual disturbances could be signs of an ocular migraine—a migraine affecting your vision that can occur with or without head pain. 


Ocular migraines are more common than you might think, affecting an estimated 1 in 200 people in the UK each year. The Daily Express covered the story of a 24-year-old woman from Wales who had a retinal ocular migraine that caused temporary blindness in one eye in 2021. Her aura symptoms progressed to a “curtain,” blocking her vision, before resolving after about an hour.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help you understand this phenomenon and what you can do about it. Keep reading to learn the different types and experiences of visual migraines.


Understanding Different Types of Visual Migraines


1. Painless Ocular Migraines


Have you noticed bright, shimmering-zig-zag lines or an expanding blind spot in both eyes, without any accompanying headache? You may have experienced a painless ocular migraine. These visual disturbances typically start small in your central vision but gradually expand outward over 20–30 minutes before resolving completely within an hour.


While these ocular migraines don’t cause head pain, they can temporarily impair your abilities like reading, writing, and even speaking in some cases. If you experience these symptoms while driving, it’s crucial to pull over safely until your vision clears.


2. Migraine With Aura 


For about 20% of migraineurs in the UK, visual disturbances known as an aura can act as an early warning sign before the dreaded headache kicks in. An aura may manifest as shimmering lights, zig-zag patterns, or even temporary vision loss in part of your visual field.


Recognising your unique migraine aura and triggers like stress, certain foods, or bright lights could help reduce the frequency and intensity of your migraines. Think of it as a helpful heads-up from your body to take preventative measures.


3. Retinal Migraine


While rarer, it’s important to understand the difference between ocular and retinal migraines. A retinal migraine specifically impacts just one eye due to constricted blood vessels in the retina at the back of that eye.  


You may experience temporary vision loss, like a hanging curtain over your visual field, along with a dull ache behind your eye. While retinal migraines tend to be infrequent, they could potentially signal a more serious underlying issue, so it’s advisable to report any occurrences to our optometrist.


Coping With Visual Migraine Attacks 


As your vision care experts and our trusted opticians, we are committed to promoting your lifelong eye health and well-being. 


If you experience any ocular migraine, whether painless, as an aura, or in one eye, we encourage you to book an appointment or email our clinic. We’re here to explore potential causes, provide professional guidance tailored to your experiences, and support you through these temporary but unsettling visual disturbances.


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