Ocular Migraine

Ocular migraines cause vision loss or blindness lasting less than an hour, along with or following a migraine headache. Experts sometimes call these episodes "retinal," "ophthalmic," or "monocular" (meaning one eye) migraines.

This problem is rare. It affects about one out of every 200 people who have migraines. Some research suggests that in many cases, symptoms of ocular migraine are actually due to other problems.

Diagnosing ocular migraine requires a health care professional to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Being able to describe the symptoms properly is important for helping your doctor determine whether you actually have an ocular migraine.

An important symptom is that the vision loss only affects one eye. Many people have trouble identifying the difference between flashing lights or blindness in one side of their vision -- but involving both eyes -- and these symptoms in only one eye.

A regular migraine with an aura, which can involve flashing lights and blind spots in the vision, is a more common problem. This type affects about 20% of people who have migraines. But in these cases, these symptoms usually appear in one side of your field of vision and in both eyes.

Covering one eye and then the other can help you tell if your problem is affecting one eye or both.

There's been little research to determine the best course of medications to treat or prevent ocular migraines.

Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following drugs:
  • Aspirin
  • Drugs used to treat epilepsy, such as Depakote (divalproex sodium) or Topamax (topiramate).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as Elavil (amitriptyline) or Pamelor (nortriptyline).
  • Beta-blockers
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