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What to do in case of a ophthalmic migraine?

23 March 2017
3 doctors treating with ophthalmic migraine

Most of us have experienced headaches, characterized by pain and a feeling of pressure in the forehead and temples. However, a headache is very different from a migraine, which itself is distinguished from an Ocular migraine.

What is the difference between a classic migraine and an ophthalmic migraine ?

A migraine is a pain concentrated on one side of the skull, of medium to high intensity and can last from a few hours to several days. A feeling of nausea and sensitivity to light may be added to the cranial pain.

In the case of an ophthalmic migraine, the pain that is felt is similar but only occurs after a visual symptom such as glare. At the beginning of an ophthalmic migraine, the patient notices a small shimmering light spot that becomes increasingly large, for a period of 10 to 30 minutes. In medical jargon, this phenomenon is called scintillating scotoma. It is also said that it is a migraine with “aura”. A sensation of nausea and sensitivity to light may be added to the cranial pain.

The intensity and symptoms of ophthalmic migraine may vary

The second part of the migraine, the cranial pain, can also vary in intensity. It is interesting to note that there are ophthalmic migraines without headaches! The patient experiences only the first phase of migraine, ie the visual symptoms.

Are ophthalmic migraines hereditary?


To date, we cannot say with certainty that the ophthalmic migraine is an inherited condition. However, researchers have found that there are genetic similarities between people with migraines. In 2016, the International Headache Genetics Consortium published a large-scale genetic study leading to the identification of some of the genes potentially responsible for this condition. This suggests that the ophthalmic migraines can be inherited.

How to treat an ophthalmic migraine?

For this type of ophthalmic migraine or with aura, conventional medicines (analgesics or anti-migraine) are often inadequate. The best treatment is still crisis prevention by identifying the causes of ophthalmic migraine. Among the most common causes are (in no particular order):

–        Stress

–        Lack of sleep

–        Lack of physical activity

–        Poor diet

Remember that your lifestyle plays a key role in the development of your migraines!

Finally, if you suffer from frequent ophthalmic migraines, it is advisable to consult an ophthalmologist to ensure that it is not a detachment of the retina. This eye disease manifests itself by repetitive glare (flashes) for no apparent reason as well as an increase in floaters often called “flies” or the presence of a pronounced shadow, an image distortion and a loss of vision of one eye. If you have these visual disorders, it is therefore very important to be seen quickly by an ophthalmologist or to go to a hospital emergency room.