Why do some migraines trigger visual disturbances?

09 May 2016

Close to 1 in 5 people who suffer from migraines experience vision problems along with their headache. Such symptoms are characteristic of what is known as a “migraine with aura” or “ocular migraine.” What causes these kinds of headaches? Why do we experience visual disturbances? How do these disturbances manifest themselves and what can be done about them?

Ocular migraine symptoms

An ocular or ophthalmic migraine is a clinical type of migraine headache. It begins with visual disturbances – precursors of the headache. These visual problems can take the form of flashes, blind spots in the field of vision, a sense of visual vibration, blurred vision and more. Sometimes, a scotoma appears, which is a blank spot that impedes vision. The symptoms last at least five minutes and can linger for up to an hour.

The causes of visual disturbances

When we are unfamiliar with this type of migraine, we tend to associate such visual disturbances with vision problems, prompting many people who are hit with a migraine to consult an optometrist. However, the aura that comes with a migraine has no bearing on our eye health, as it is centred in the vision zone of the brain. Also, these disturbances can vary from one person to the next. For example, if someone feels a certain numbness, it’s because the aura is crossing the brain’s tactile stimulation area. Think of the aura as an electric current passing randomly through a specific area of your brain and triggering symptoms related to this area. Migraines are caused by a variety of factors and can be due to stress, a lack of sleep, the menstruation cycle, and many other situations.

What can be done?

In the case of a migraine with aura, unfortunately patience is sometimes the only solution. If possible, take headache medication and rest in a dark room until the pain subsides. Some people continue to be very sensitive to light for up to 24 hours after experiencing a migraine with aura. Ideally, you should keep your exposure to light to a minimum.

If your vision problems persist, we recommend you speak with your physician or your Opto-Réseau optometrist, who is never far away.

We also share a great deal of information on our Facebook page. Come pay us a visit!

  • Migraine
  • Vision trouble


To find the best pair of prescription glasses or sunglasses for your needs, book an appointment at your Opto-Réseau clinic. Our eyecare professionals will be more than happy to help you pick the frames and lenses that are perfect for you!