Symptoms of ocular migraines

Symptoms of ocular migraines

How to recognise an ocular migraine:

  • Loss of vision (in one eye): Temporary changes in vision may occur for between 10 and 20 minutes or as long as an hour. It is not usual for visual disturbance associated with ocular migraine to last longer than 1 hour. In recurring ocular migraine attacks, the same eye is typically affected.
  • Vision changes and sensations: Patterns of spots (sometimes a mosaic of black spots called scotomas) may gradually become bigger, causing total loss of vision in the eye. Visual disturbance may also be partial and cause dim vision, blurriness, wavy or zig-zagging lines (streaks) and flashing or flickering lights (scintillations). Sensations may move across the field of vision.
  • Headache (migraine): Pain can occur both during and after disturbances in vision. The headache typically lasts longer than the discomforts of visual disturbance – between a few hours or even a few days (4 to 72 hours). Pain is often described as throbbing (pulsating) and can feel worse when physically active. It also typically affects one side of the head (ranging in severity), and can be accompanied by other physical discomforts (see below).

Other associated symptoms can include:

  • Pale complexion
  • A disrupted sense of smell, taste or touch
  • Sweating, cold or clammy hands
  • Numbness and or / tingling (also described as ‘pins and needles’) in the facial area or hands
  • Pressure or tenderness of the scalp
  • Difficulties with speech
  • Photophobia (a hypersensitivity to light)
  • Phonophobia (a hypersensitivity to sound)
  • Mental fog
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Many who experience migraine, including ocular migraine also go through what is known as a ‘prodrome’ period (which is the term used for symptoms experienced before the onset of an illness). This is the period before the onset of migraine related symptoms and can happen within a few days before an attack or even weeks ahead of it.

Those who are familiar with migraine often describe subtle changes in mood (feeling irritable, tense or depressed), cravings for certain foods (or increased appetite) or a general feeling of tiredness, drowsiness or fatigue during the prodrome period. Alternatively, some experience a surge of energy, become talkative and restless.

What possible complications can occur as a result of ocular migraine symptoms?

Reduced blood flow can result in damage to the retina (thin layer at the back of the eye) or the blood vessels within the eye. In severe instances, this can result in permanent loss of vision, but this is considered very rare.

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