Migraine and Visual Auras

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 4, 2021

Migraine sufferers report that over 30% also experience visual auras.

A migraine with aura is a recurring severe headache that occurs after or at the same time as sensory disturbances. These disturbances can include flashes or sparks of light, blind spots, darkening of vision and other vision changes.

What causes a migraine with aura?

The causes of a migraine with aura are similar to those of other types of migraine. Causes include:

  • Alcohol consumption (especially red wine)
  • Allergic responses
  • Environmental factors such as bright or flashing lights
  • Family history
  • Hormonal triggers in women
  • Poor diet or lack of sleep
  • Stress

What are the symptoms of migraine aura?

Migraine aura symptoms include temporary visual or other disturbances that usually occur before other migraine symptoms — such as intense head pain, sensitivity to light and sound and nausea.

Migraine aura usually appears within an hour after the onset of head pain and lasts for less than 60 minutes. Migraine aura can develop with or without a headache, especially in adults over the age of 50.

Visual signs and symptoms

Most people who have a migraine with aura develop temporary visual signs and symptoms.

These might include:

  • Blind spots
  • Changes in vision or vision loss
  • Flashes of light
  • Shimmering spots or stars
  • Zigzag lines that gradually float across your field of vision

Other disturbances

Other temporary disturbances sometimes associated with migraine aura include:

  • Language or speech difficulty
  • Muscle weakness
  • Limb numbness
  • Tingling on one side of your face or in one hand that may spread slowly along a limb

If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, contact an eye doctor near you.

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How to treat migraine with aura

As with standard migraines, migraine with aura  is treated with medications that relieve migraine symptoms.  These medications work best when taken at the first sign of an oncoming migraine.

Depending on the severity of the migraine pain, the types of medications that can be used to reduce the intensity and frequency:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Triptans, such as sumatriptan and rizatriptan
  • Dihydroergotamine, available as a nasal spray or injection
  • Anti-nausea drugs like chlorpromazine, metoclopramide or prochlorperazine

If you experience migraines with aura or suffer from classic migraine headaches, speak with your eye doctor about controlling your symptoms and preventing further episodes in the future.

LEARN MORE:  Guide to Eye Conditions

If you suffer with migraines, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you to learn more about migraine with aura and possible treatment options.