Have you ever experienced a migraine that was accompanied by visual stimulation?
Then chances are you had an ocular migraine. This type of a migraine is notable for visual symptoms (known as an aura). These commonly include seeing dark spots, bright spots, stars, and zigzagging lines, before the pain of a headache sets in.
However, this type of migraine doesn’t always come along with a headache. Some people experience the visual symptoms without the accompanying headache or pain. This is referred to as a silent migraine.
Here’s what you need to know about migraine aura without a headache if you’re experiencing this problem for yourself.
What is an Ocular Migraine?
An ocular migraine is the number one cause of a migraine aura.
As mentioned above, this type of a migraine can occur with or without the associated headache pain symptoms.
According to The Migraine Trust, no one is sure exactly what causes an ocular migraine. Most experts agree that they’re related to spasms or changes that occur in the retinas, particularly the blood vessels or nerve cells.
Other names for ocular migraines include retinal or monocular migraines. They usually affect both eyes but sometimes affect only one.
In addition to changes in vision such as the onset of an aura, these migraines notably cause temporary vision loss.
The visual changes experienced during a retinal migraine lost anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour.
WebMD states that ocular migraines are quite rare. Only about 1 out of every 200 people with migraines will experience vision problems during them.
In very rare instances, those with ocular migraines will experience permanent vision loss in one eye.
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Ocular Migraine Symptoms
There are many symptoms of ocular migraines both during the migraine event as well as leading up to it.
Warning signs that such a migraine is about to occur include vision problems with one eye, notable flashing lights or blind spots.
These visual effects will increase in intensity as a migraine draws closer. You’ll likely see flashing lights, stars, or zigzag lights for up to one hour.
According to Migraine.com, these visual effects usually lead into the actual headache stage of a migraine.
For those that experience headaches with their ocular migraines, the pain lasts for between 4 hours and 72 hours.
A headache is usually extremely painful, throbs or pulsates, and affects only one side of the head rather than both. Other common symptoms include sensitivity to light and sound as well as feelings of nausea and potential vomiting.
However, not all migraine auras are accompanied by a headache. Sometimes you’ll experience the visual effects without the resulting pain.
Migraine Aura Without Headache
Experiencing a migraine aura without a headache can be confusing.
Most people associate migraines with headaches and intense head pains. So, they’re often left unsure when they experience most of the same symptoms without any head pain.
Though much rarer, migraine aura without headaches are still considered ocular migraines, even though the experience is much different.
The main similarity between the two conditions are the visual auras. Those that experience a migraine aura see the same bright spots, dark spots, stars, and zigzag lights.
The difference is that they come and go without any head pain. Most people will experience the visual symptoms for between 5 minutes and 60 minutes before they go away completely.
Even though the visual symptoms don’t occur with a headache, most experts still agree they’re caused by the same changes as a normal ocular migraine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, two main types of people experience silent migraines.
First is people that experience ocular migraines like normal. Sometimes the visual aura will result in a headache while other times no head pain will be felt.
The second is those that only experience ocular migraines without pain. They never experience a headache after the visual aura.
Remember that the symptoms of migraines change over time. Most people have a far different migraine experience over time as when they first started to get migraines.
It’s also worth noting that older people experience these visual auras without pain far more often than younger people.
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Common Symptoms of Migraine Aura Without Headache
Most people that experience visual symptoms of silent migraines have the same symptoms.
Healthline states that the most common of these visual symptoms include seeing:
- Flashing or flickering lights
- Zigzag lines
- Spots, stars, halos of colorful light
- Blind spots, dark spots, light spots
- Temporary loss of vision (or clouded vision)
- Shimmering effects
Despite the lack of a headache, those suffering from this unique condition also commonly experience additional symptoms including:
- Tingling or numbness in body
- Odd sensations/feelings in arms, hands, face, and tongue
- Pins and needles sensation in feet
- Difficulty speaking
Note that some people experience migraine auras without headaches at certain times and with headaches at others.
Treatment and Prevention of Migraine Aura Without Headache
Most silent migraines with visual effects are triggered by certain things. These triggers differ greatly from person to person.
However, HealthCentral states that the most common triggers include:
The organization goes on to state that bright/flickering lights and load noise can also act as triggers for these silent migraines.
Learning what, if anything, triggers these events for you is the number one key to avoiding and preventing them.
In fact, that’s why professional treatment for ocular migraines without headache starts with keeping a thorough daily diary.
Track exactly what you eat and drink, how much you sleep, and your stress levels to see if any well-known triggers correlate with your migraine events.
More treatments are offered once the reasons for your migraines are narrowed down. Dozens of different medications are available to treat your migraines.
Other than avoiding triggers and taking medications, the best way to avoid silent migraines is by avoiding undue amounts of stress by eating well, exercising often, and getting enough sleep.
Link Between Neck Pain and Migraines
Neck pain is a symptom experienced by many of those that suffer from ocular migraines, both with headaches and without.
According to the Journal of Headache and Pain, neck pain is generally a part of the symptoms of a migraine itself rather than a preexisting condition that causes them.
However, it’s worth noting that prior neck injuries or neck stiffness often intensifies during an ocular migraine. It’s important to seek the right neck care to prevent this additional pain from occurring with the onset of a silent migraine.