What Is an Ocular Migraine?


An ocular migraine is a rare type of migraine that involves visual disturbances. The visual disturbances of an ocular migraine are similar to those of visual aura that precede a migraine with aura; however, ocular migraines are not followed by the typical headache of a migraine attack. They are sometimes referred to as silent migraines or visual migraines.


An ocular migraine can develop in one or both eyes. They typically resolve within 30 minutes and do not cause lasting damage. Visual disturbances are the primary symptom of an ocular migraine; they often start in the center of the field of vision, then spread and expand.

  • Flashing or shimmering lights
  • Zigzag lines that may appear in the shape of the letter C
  • A pinprick of light that develops into bright geometric lines and shapes (fortification spectrum)
  • Bright spots or flashes of light
  • Distorted vision
  • Blind spots (scotoma)
  • Double vision
  • Temporary loss of vision

Visual disturbances in just one eye are also associated with a different type of migraine, known as a retinal migraine. As the one-sided vision changes of a retinal migraine can be associated with other serious conditions and because vision loss could be permanent, individuals who experience symptoms of a retinal migraine should seek immediate medical attention.


Although the exact cause of ocular migraines is not known, they are believed to be caused by irregular electrical activity in the brain.

Similar to other types of migraines, ocular migraines have many triggers, including but not limited to, the following:

  • Hormone levels
  • Weather
  • Certain foods or beverages
  • Bright or flashing lights
  • Stress
  • Changes in sleep

Risk factors

  • A family history of ocular migraines or other types of migraines increases the risk of developing ocular migraines.
  • Age and gender can also be risk factors. As women get older, they may have fewer migraine headaches or headaches with less pain, but they may experience more ocular migraines.