Black and white image of woman experiencing a migraine. There is red coloring around her left eye to indicate retinal migraine.

Retinal Migraines: What Are They?

If you experience vision problems on one eye during a migraine attack, you could be suffering from retinal migraines. Here is more information about this type of migraine, including how to tell the symptoms apart from migraine auras.

Retinal migraines, also known as ocular migraines, is a condition that causes headaches accompanied by vision problems such as flashing lights or blindness. Although migraines with aura can cause visual issues in both eyes, retinal migraines only cause problems in one eye. For example, you may experience blurry vision in your right eye, but your left eye is totally normal.

The frequency of retinal migraines can vary as some people may experience an attack every few months while others might have it more frequently. Due to the nature of this condition, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible in order to rule out eye diseases and abnormalities. A doctor can also rule out other primary disorders that can mimic similar symptoms as well as differentiate between similar headache types.


The main symptoms of an ocular migraine are:

Retinal Migraines: What Are They?

  • Visual issues such as blurry vision, flashing lights, partial or total loss of vision in one eye
  • Headaches which may occur before, during, or after vision problems

These attacks can last up to an hour and the same eye is affected each time. The vision problems generally resolve as the headache goes away, but they can also occur without the onset of a headache. Visual issues can differ person to person. Some may experience slow blurring or dimming, while others might see patterns of blank spots known as scotomas.


The symptoms of a retinal migraine is caused by constricting blood vessels in the eye which reduces blood flow.

Retinal Migraines: What Are They?

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Rapid climate or altitude changes
  • Smoking
  • Physical fatigue
  • Some medications
  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar
  • Dehydration

Furthermore, the condition can be genetic since people with a family history of migraines are more likely to also have migraine conditions. This type of migraine is also more common in women and people under the age of 40.

When the blood vessels relax allowing for blood flow to continue to the eye, the symptoms subside. Vision should return to normal, and these episodes should not cause permanent damage to the eye.

Diagnosis and Treatment

It is recommended to be seen by both an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) and a neurologist or primary care provider if possible. Since these types of headaches affect vision, an eye doctor can rule out any underlying eye problems and diseases. A neurologist or primary care provider can then make an accurate diagnosis for this type of headache. A diagnosis is usually reached based on a physical examination and reviews of the patient’s personal medical history, family medical history, and symptoms.

Once diagnosed, the provider can then guide patient’s towards medications that help relieve symptoms. According to the , common medications for retinal migraines include NSAIDs and anti-nausea medications. Preventative therapies or measures may also be recommended by the doctor based on the patient’s history and symptoms.

If you are experiencing retinal migraines, do not hesitate to contact a doctor’s office. End Headache’s platform can help reach a diagnosis quickly and deliver medications to your doorstep.


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