What is Ocular Migraine?

Ocular migraine, or migraine with aura, is a cerebral phenomenon accompanied with visual symptoms – commonly occurring as scintillating lights, scotomas or temporary visual loss. It is caused by reduced blood flow or blood vessel spasm in our visual lobes of the occipital cortex.

In an ocular migraine episode, visual symptoms generally return to normality within an hour or less. Most times, ocular migraine may occur without a migraine headache at all. 


Visual symptoms of ocular migraine can be disabling; however, usually momentary: 

  • A bright or blind spot in the centre or around the central vision that spreads and covers part of your visual field
  • Seeing temporary flashes of light
  • Seeing stars
  • Colour fringes in vision
  • Zigzag patterns
  • Light sensitivity

Image above showing colour fringes in vision with zigzag patterns.


These triggers may vary from person-to-person:

  1. Dietary factors such as excessive caffeine, alcohol or chocolate intake
  2. Environmental factors such as weather changes or bright and glaring lights
  3. Hormonal changes such as changes during menstrual cycle
  4. Fatigue due to lack of sleep
  5. Stress or anxiety
  6. Smoking


As mentioned earlier, visual symptoms often disappear within an hour or less without any treatment. It is ideal to stop what you are doing and rest your eyes until the migraine or visual disturbances disappear. If you have a headache, you may take pain relief medicines bought over-the-counters or what your doctor recommends.

To ease your migraine symptoms, try to identify and avoid the triggers of ocular migraine; such as stress, dehydration and prolonged screen time. It is also a good start to keep a diary to note down specific date, time, duration and trigger of the migraine attacks.

Although sudden vision loss may be a sign of stroke or retinal detachment, a true ocular migraine or migraine with aura does not cause any damage to the structure of the eye. Contact your eye doctor as soon as possible to exclude any more worrying eye condition. As saying goes “Better safe than sorry” – it is safer to have your eyes assessed to determine the exact cause of your visual symptoms.




Ophthalmologist and Eye Specialist Singapore


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