health

12 Head-Splitting Signs You’re Having Ocular Migraines Instead Of Regular Ones

by Lindsey Weedston

Over 36 million people in the US experience the occasional migraine. These painful episodes are more than just headaches, although the moderate to severe head pain is usually the most noticeable symptom. Migraines can also cause nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and mental fogginess. Some migraine sufferers experience strange visual disturbances or even temporary partial loss of vision before the pain starts, or even without a headache at all. These are often referred to as ocular migraines.

The first time you experience symptoms of ocular migraines, it can be alarming. However, the effects typically fade away in under an hour, though they can reappear during the pain phase of the migraine. Some lucky individuals only experience the visual effects without experiencing a headache or other common migraine symptoms.

Ocular migraines aren’t typically dangerous, though certain types can, on rare occasions, cause irreversible vision damage. Consult your doctor if you’ve experienced any of the following signs and symptoms.

1. Visual Distortions

1. Visual Distortions
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

The most obvious and characteristic symptom of an ocular migraine is visual distortion. According to the American Migraine Foundation, this can come in the form of zigzag lines, “stars,” blind spots, flashing lights, or even partial vision loss. The same thing might be experienced by someone who suffers a blow to the head. If it happens without an obvious cause, it might be an ocular migraine.

2. Vision Problems in One Eye Only

2. Vision Problems in One Eye Only
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

There are different types of ocular migraines. When the visual disturbances occur in only one eye, this is often referred to as a retinal migraine. The visual symptoms of a retinal migraine tend to be more severe and can lead to permanent vision loss.

3. Numbness or Tingling in Hands or Face

3. Numbness or Tingling in Hands or Face
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

The other common type of ocular migraine is called “migraine with aura.” Though the visual symptoms of the aura can be the most alarming, they’re very often not the only ones. According to the Mayo Clinic, numbness or tingling in the hands and face during the aura phase can accompany the flashing lights and blind spots.

4. Feeling Mentally Foggy or Fuzzy

4. Feeling Mentally Foggy or Fuzzy
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

It can be difficult to think whenever your head hurts. However, the mental fogginess of an ocular migraine tends to go beyond that of the typical headache. People experiencing this type of migraine can have serious difficulty putting thoughts together when they’re having visual symptoms.

5. Impaired Sense of Touch, Taste, or Smell

5. Impaired Sense of Touch, Taste, or Smell
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

Sight isn’t the only sense affected during an ocular migraine. You might find that your senses of smell and taste are impaired, or smells and tastes might be overpowering or repulsive. Things can even feel different on your skin. If your senses are extremely heightened or weakened, it might be caused by an ocular migraine.

6. Moderate to Severe Head Pain

6. Moderate to Severe Head Pain
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

Not everyone who gets ocular migraines will experience what is called the “pain phase” — the typical painful migraine symptoms that come after an ocular episode. However, if your visual distortions are followed by moderate to severe pain anywhere in the head, it’s very likely that you’re having an ocular migraine.

7. Pain on Only One Side of the Head

7. Pain on Only One Side of the Head
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a migraine and another type of painful headache, such as a tension or sinus headache. Migraines sometimes occur on only one side of your head. Pain often is in a particular area such as an eye, the top of the head, a temple, or the sinuses. Sometimes the pain moves from one spot to another. If you’re experiencing an ocular migraine, this type of pain might occur after your visual disturbances have subsided.

8. Pain That Throbs or Pulsates

8. Pain That Throbs or Pulsates
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

Another key feature of a traditional migraine is the throbbing or pulsating quality of the pain. Migraine pain is not typically constant like other types of headache but comes and goes. It can also feel like there is pressure inside your head, like something is pressing up against your skull or trying to burst out of your skin. Ocular migraines don’t always cause this kind of pain, but they can.

9. Pain That Gets Worse When You Move Around

9. Pain That Gets Worse When You Move Around
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

Some headaches get better when you get up, move around, and distract yourself. This is not the case with migraines. With ocular migraines, moving around can cause both the aura or retinal phase and the pain phase to become worse. Your best bet is to lie still in a dark, quiet room.

10. Nausea and Vomiting

10. Nausea and Vomiting
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

A common symptom of any migraine is nausea and/or vomiting. This typically occurs during the pain phase and is much more intense than the mild nausea that is sometimes caused by bad cases of other types of headaches. Because ocular migraines often affect vision, they can make the nausea even worse.

11. Sensitivity to Light and Sound

11. Sensitivity to Light and Sound
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

Another key symptom of any type of migraine is a moderate to severe sensitivity to light and sound. Any light can seem blinding, and any sound can make the pain worse during an attack. It’s like having a bad hangover, only more intense. Often, this kind of sensitivity occurs after the visual symptoms of an ocular migraine end.

12. Trouble Speaking or Understanding Language

12. Trouble Speaking or Understanding Language
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

Another alarming symptom of ocular migraines, typically of the aura variety, is temporary aphasia. Aphasia is an inability to process language, either written or spoken. Someone experiencing an ocular migraine might have difficulty understanding speech, reading, speaking, or writing.

A Symptom of Something More Serious?

<u>A Symptom of Something More Serious?</u>
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

Migraines are still not well understood. Ocular migraines are thought to be caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, and these episodes can be caused by different triggers. However, it’s not clear why migraines occur in some people and not others, or why a subset of the population experiences visual symptoms before or instead of the pain phase.

Some people have migraines for many years or for their entire lives without other problems. However, according to Healthline, ocular migraines can be a symptom of something more serious. If you suddenly start experiencing migraines, ocular or otherwise, you should get checked out by a doctor. This is especially true if the symptoms appear following head trauma.

Coping With Migraines

<u>Coping With Migraines</u>
Augi - Pannathorn Narksook for RockYou

For those who suffer from chronic or episodic migraines without an underlying cause, prevention and coping skills are the only options.

Keeping a detailed diary can help you figure out triggers such as certain foods, weather conditions, types of lights, new medications, or stress. You can try different preventative or pain relief medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. There are also natural remedies that might be effective, including acupressure and ice packs.

A better understanding of the type of migraine you experience can lead to better treatment and prevention. Talk to your doctor if you think you’re experiencing ocular migraines.