An ocular migraine, also known as a retinal migraine, is an eye condition that causes short attacks of visual disturbances, such as temporary blindness or flashing lights. Ocular migraines tend to be short in duration and harmless, but they may be indicative of a more serious health concern. Whenever someone experiences a change in his or her vision, it is important that a qualified optometrist examines the individual to ensure there is no serious threat to vision or overall health.
Symptoms of Ocular Migraines
An ocular migraine tends to come on quickly and resolve without interference. Ocular migraines affect only one eye. During the attack, the following symptoms may be experienced:
- Flashing lights
- Blind spots or areas of decreased vision (scotoma)
- Complete blindness in affected eye
Ocular Migraine vs. Migraine with Aura
An ocular migraine is often confused with a classic migraine with aura. Many people who suffer from migraines experience visual disturbances before the painful headache begins. Referred to as an “aura,” this phase of the headache may include tunnel vision, blind spots, flashes, and sensitivity to light. These visual disturbances tend to occur in both eyes. To differentiate between an ocular migraine and a migraine aura, Dr. Semaan asks his patients to cover one eye during an attack. If the symptoms disappear when one eye is covered, then a migraine with aura can be ruled out.
Causes of Ocular Migraines
At this time, the medical community does not know exactly what causes ocular migraines. Some theories suggest that spasms in the retina’s blood vessels or changes in the retina’s nerve cells may cause an ocular migraine. There are a number of serious health problems that can cause symptoms similar to an ocular migraine, making an accurate diagnose very important.
Diagnosing & Treating Ocular Migraines
When Dr. Semaan meets with a patient who seems to be suffering from ocular migraines, he will conduct a thorough eye exam and carefully review the patient’s medical history. To diagnose an ocular migraine, Dr. Semaan must first rule out several other health conditions that could be causing the symptoms. If these problems are eliminated and the symptoms are occurring only in one eye, Dr. Semaan may determine that the patient is suffering from a true ocular migraine.
If medications are required to lessen the symptoms or treat a painful headache, then Dr. Semaan will refer the patient to a medical doctor who specializes in ocular migraines. Some people who suffer from ocular migraines will later develop complete blindness. As such, Dr. Semaan requests that his ocular migraine patients also attend regular eye exams to ensure that their vision is not deteriorating.
Consulting with Dr. Semaan in Orange County
If you are suffering from attacks of temporary visual disturbances, we encourage you to make an appointment with Dr. Semaan immediately. While ocular migraines are usually harmless, Dr. Semaan will want to ensure that your vision is not being permanently damaged and rule out other potential medical issues. Dr. Semaan has worked with many patients who suffer from ocular migraines and has the expertise necessary to identify this problem.