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by Deborah Dera, Guest Writer

There was no warning on the day I had my first ocular migraine. I didn’t know what it was and there was no pain. It was as if I had looked directly into a light and then looked away; I was seeing a spot in my right eye.

It took up the upper right hand corner of anything I saw with that eye, and it was flashing. I thought perhaps I had looked into the light without realizing it, but I was wrong.

What’s an ocular migraine look like to someone having one? Got 10 seconds?

Twenty minutes into the ocular migraine, closer to 30, the light was still flashing in my eye. It was more like a blind spot that would not go away. I closed my eyes for a few minutes and reopened them to see the spot was still there.

When the spot finally did stop flashing, I had a dull aching feeling, as though my eye was strained. The vision seemed dim in that eye, as if a cloud was passing by during an otherwise bright and sunny day.

I thought the incident had passed when the blind spot came back, larger and flashier than before. Scared, and starting to think I was going blind, I told my manager I was going home for the day. My boyfriend came to the office to follow me as I drove home, and I called the eye doctor.

After describing my symptoms, the optometrist told me it sounded like I had an ocular migraine. He asked if I had a headache afterwards; I was, in fact, experiencing the sharp headache on the opposite side of my head as I spoke to him.

Because I had two incidents in a row, he asked me to visit the office for a checkup and to make sure there was no damage to my eye or underlying cause. I had never heard of an ocular migraine before that day, and this is what I learned:

An ocular migraine is not anything like your typical “migraine” headache. An ocular migraine affects only one eye, and after your vision is impacted, a normal headache is likely to follow. Those of you familiar with regular “migraines” may have experienced an aura in your vision right before your headache struck – this affects both eyes and is not a symptom of an ocular migraine.

A woman describes her ocular migraine experience.

An ocular migraine can be caused by a number of triggers, ranging from hormones or medications to flashing lights. During an ocular migraine, the blood flow to the area of the brain controlling vision is affected, causing the changes in vision (or “aftervision”) such as I experienced.

Here’s another look at an ocular migraine from the sufferer’s POV, from the Mayo Clinic. Kinda scary!

The visual symptoms of a typical ocular migraine will last from 5-15 minutes with some experiencing symptoms up to 30 minutes or more. The visual symptoms are almost always followed by a headache and may also include a “strained” feeling in the eye and a feeling of clouded vision.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to prevent ocular migraines and a trip to your optometrist may not produce results, especially since the migraine will most likely be gone before you even make it into the office. Your eye doctor will, however, check your eyes to make sure there is no retinal damage.

I found out that many people have ocular migraines on a monthly basis, but that it’s also possible I’ll never have one again in my life. Frequent migraines may be a symptom of something more serious, so a trip to your regular physician or a specialist may be in order.

Needless to say, the experience was scarier than the situation warranted. Many people who have ocular migraines are unfamiliar with the existence of such a disorder. Seeing blind spots in the middle of your vision can be terrifying, but if you are truly having an ocular migraine your vision will return to normal shortly!

Best wishes for clear vision! See your eye care specialist!

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