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What to know about migraine and blurry vision

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Migraine and blurry visionOther symptomsTypesTreatmentsSummary
Vision problems, such as blurry vision, are common migraine symptoms. These symptoms are typically harmless and do not last a long time.
Medically reviewed by Darragh O'Carroll, MD
Updated on

Doctors don’t know the exact causes of migraine. While people report many different symptoms, blurry vision is a frequent symptom of migraine, occurring in many types of the condition. Individuals with migraine also often report severe headaches and sensitivity to light and sounds.

The severity of migraine symptoms can vary from one episode to the other, making it difficult for people to predict when new migraine attacks are going to happen.

If you experience blurry vision with migraine, you’re not alone. And with the right treatment, you can manage your condition successfully.

Migraine and blurry vision

A group of people walking by in a blur, representing the blurry vision caused by migraine.
EschCollection/Getty Images

Before a migraine attack begins, you may notice changes in your vision. This may include seeing flashing lights or strange shapes. Sometimes, you may have blurry vision or see wavy lines. These visual disturbances occur in about 25–30% of people with migraine and are known as symptoms of aura.

This may feel frightening, but it’s very common with migraine and won’t cause permanent damage to your sight.

Aura is a short amount of time that precedes a migraine attack in which you may experience a combination of disturbances, including vision problems. Your visual disturbances should typically last 10–30 minutes, but sometimes they may persist for up to an hour.

Ocular migraine, also known as retinal migraine, is a condition often linked to migraine headaches. It can cause several vision disturbances, including temporary vision loss and blurry vision.

Ocular migraine occurs when the blood vessels in the eye suddenly narrow, restricting their blood flow. This can limit their blood supply and cause the development of visual symptoms, including:

  • vision loss for up to 1 hour
  • partial vision loss, such as a new blind spot in your vision
  • a headache
  • blurred vision
  • seeing flashing lights
  • increased light sensitivity
  • nausea and vomiting
  • colored spots or wavy patterns in your vision

Ocular migraine symptoms can also occur without you experiencing a headache.

Other symptoms

Migraine can cause a wide range of symptoms. Besides visual disturbances, people with migraine may experience symptoms such as:

  • a severe headache on one side of the head
  • tingling sensation in the hands or on the face
  • numbness
  • confusion
  • difficulty speaking
  • mood changes
  • fatigue
  • increased sensitivity to light and sounds
  • nausea
  • muscle weakness on one side of the body

Types of migraine

The two major types of migraine are migraine with aura and the more prevalent migraine without aura. But these can be further subdivided into different categories:

Migraine typeOverview
Ocular migraineAlso known as “retinal migraine”, this can cause vision loss or disturbances in one eye.
Ophthalmoplegic migraineThis is an uncommon type of migraine that typically occurs alongside head pain. This form of migraine can cause droopy eyelids, large pupils, and double vision that can last for weeks after the pain goes away.
Migraine without headacheThis can cause vision disturbances and other symptoms of migraine, such as constipation, nausea, or vomiting, but without causing a headache.
Menstrual migrainePeriods can trigger migraine due to several hormonal changes, such as a drop in estrogen levels.
Abdominal migraineThis is more common in young children. It can cause moderate to severe abdominal pain and little to no headache, lasting up to 72 hours. Children who develop abdominal migraine are more likely to experience migraine headaches in adulthood.
Basilar-type migraineThis is more common in children and teenagers, particularly during the menstrual cycle. The symptoms of this type of migraine are similar to those people experience in adulthood. Basilar-type migraine may occur with or without aura, and it can also happen at other times of the month.
Hemiplegic migraineThis is a rare and severe form of migraine that can cause temporary paralysis on one side of the body before or during a headache. The paralysis can last several days, and it can also cause symptoms like vertigo and difficulty swallowing. This type of migraine can run in families due to a mutation that can increase the sensitivity of the brain.
Status migrainousThis is a rare and acute type of migraine. People can experience disabling pain and nausea that can sometimes require hospitalization. Status migrainous can last several days.

Doctors can help you determine what type of migraine you typically experience and recommend the most appropriate treatment to help you manage your migraine episodes.

Migraine treatments

You have several options for improving your migraine symptoms.

Doctors may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relief medications. They may also prescribe drugs, such as triptans and corticosteroids, for treating more severe and recurrent migraine episodes.

OTC medications for migraine may include pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve).

Prescription drugs for migraine may include:

Specialists may also recommend making some lifestyle changes that may help reduce your risk of developing migraine attacks. This may include:

  • making dietary changes, which can involve avoiding aged cheese, caffeine, and alcohol
  • eating regular-sized meals
  • avoiding skipping meals
  • keeping good hydration
  • exercising regularly
  • managing stress levels
  • getting enough rest and maintaining a regular bedtime schedule
  • avoiding your known triggers of migraine

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Blurry vision and other visual disturbances are common symptoms of migraine. These do not typically last for more than 1 hour and do not cause any damage to your eyes. Specialists think these vision changes may have a connection with the constriction of the blood vessels in the eyes that can occur during a migraine attack.

A combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatment can help people reduce the risk of migraine episodes and improve their symptoms when they occur.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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