Is my blurry vision caused by a migraine attack?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 15.3% of American adults have experienced a migraine attack or severe headache within the past 3 months. Sometimes, a migraine attack can cause blurry vision. But blurry vision can be caused by other conditions as well.

Read on to learn more about migraine and which conditions can cause blurry vision. 

What is a migraine? 

Migraine is a headache disorder characterized by throbbing pain, often on one side of the head. A migraine attack can last for hours or days with pain that can interfere with daily activities.

A migraine attack is often accompanied by a phenomenon called an aura, which can manifest in several ways, including:

  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Blind spots 

Aura may also include numbness in your face or one side of your body, a “pins and needles” sensation in your legs or arms, and speech changes. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if it’s for the first time, it’s best to seek emergency medical attention.

Retinal migraine

Sometimes referred to as an ocular migraine, a retinal migraine is a rare type of migraine. Along with other symptoms, it involves repeated short-lasting occurrences of diminished vision or blindness. These occurrences may precede or accompany a migraine attack and typically affect one eye. 

Other migraine symptoms

If you’re experiencing a migraine attack, you may also have symptoms such as:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to sound, light, touch, and/or smell
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Following a migraine attack, some people report feeling elation, but the majority feel drained or confused.

Migraine treatment  

Your doctor may recommend treatment that may include any of the following. These are all considered rescue medications rather than preventative.

  • Pain relievers. Over-the-counter or prescription-strength pain relievers, such aspirin or ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil) can help.
  • Triptans. Prescription drugs such as rizatriptan (Maxalt) and sumatriptan (Imitrex, Tosymra) block pain pathways in the brain.
  • Dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal). This is a nasal spray or injection that treats lengthy migraine attacks.
  • Lasmiditan (Reyvow). Lasmiditan is a drug for migraine with or without aura.
  • Ubrogepant (Ubrelvy). Ubregopant treats acute migraine in adults.
  • Rimegepant (Nurtec ODT). Rimegepant is used to treat acute migraine without aura.

Other conditions that can cause blurry vision  

Sometimes, blurry vision can be caused by something other than a migraine attack. These can include:

  • Low blood sugar. When your brain is deprived of glucose, its primary source of fuel, the result can be a headache and blurred vision.
  • Stroke. Symptoms of a stroke can include a sudden, severe headache and/or blurred vision in one or both of your eyes.
  • Ministroke. A ministroke, also referred to as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), can have symptoms that include headache and blurry vision. TIA is a sign that you are at risk for an impending stroke. 
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning. When carbon monoxide deprives the brain and body of oxygen, common reactions include vision problems and headache. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, so you may not notice if you breathe it in. When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it binds to the hemoglobin in your blood, preventing it from carrying oxygen to your tissues and organs.
  • Hemangioblastoma. A progressive headache and blurred vision can be signs of a hemangioblastoma, a rare type of tumor. According to a 2013 case study, these rare tumors account for 1–2.5% of all abnormal growth in the cranial cavity.

Takeaway 

If you’re experiencing a severe headache accompanied by blurry vision, you are most likely having a migraine attack. However, other conditions can also cause a headache with blurry vision. 

Talk to your doctor if you experience blurry vision while having a severe headache.