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Ocular Migraines

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If you’re confused by the term ‘ocular migraine’, you are not alone. The term is often used to describe two very different migraine conditions involving vision disturbances, a migraine with aura, which usually isn’t serious, and the rarer and potentially more serious retinal migraine.

So, what exactly is an ocular migraine? And which is correct? Depending on who you talk to, the answers could be very different.

The International Headache Society, which has developed the widely adapted classification system for migraine and headache, the ICHD-3, to help doctors with diagnosis and treatment, does not recognize the term ‘ocular’ migraine as a type of migraine. Yet the term is still used by some doctors to describe one of the above migraine conditions or the other.

“Ocular migraine” may be an umbrella term used to describe either migraines with auras or retinal migraines. Don’t confuse the two.

Because the term ocular migraine is sometimes used interchangeably, it’s important to distinguish between the two conditions.

Woman suffering from migraine with aura

Migraine with Aura

  • A common type of migraine
  • Visual disturbances in both eyes
  • Usually not serious
Woman suffering from retinal migraine

Retinal Migraine

  • A rare type of migraine
  • Visual disturbances in one eye only
  • May lead to  more serious complications – see your doctor right away

It can sometimes be hard to tell if you’re having visual symptoms in one eye or both. If you are not sure, cover one eye then the other to determine any differences.

Communicating with your doctor.

If your doctor or other health care professional uses the term ocular migraine, it’s important to be certain you are both referring to the same set of symptoms. Record your symptoms and what you experienced so you can describe what you went through as accurately as possible and receive the right treatment for you.