Migraine Eye Symptoms
Because migraine is a neurologic disease and not just a “headache”, it can have a variety of symptoms other than head pain. Visual disturbances and eye pain are two common ocular examples of migraine eye symptoms.
About 1/3rd of people with migraine experience a visual disturbance or “aura” that precedes their headache. A typical migraine aura lasts about 15 to 20 minutes. As the visual disturbance recedes, the headache typically begins. Migraine aura can take on a number of forms. Many who experience aura describe flashing lights, blind spots that expand and migrate across the visual field, zig-zag lines that scintillate and obscure portions of the visual field, “heat waves”, spots and dots, prisms, or broken glass. Here are a couple of examples from the internet. The jagged edges in this example is typical:
This migraine eye symptom is thought to originate in the visual cortex, the part of the brain responsible for vision. The eye itself is usually not the source of the aura and most migraine sufferers will report that the aura is visible even with their eyes closed. While most migraineurs do not experience aura in association with their headaches, a minority of migraineurs, especially later in life, experience migraine auras, but no headache.
2) Eye Pain
The nerve that is responsible for the pain associated with migraine is the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve, or fifth nerve, is one of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves – nerves that project directly out of the base of the brain (the brainstem) instead of projecting out of the spinal cord. This nerve also supplies sensation to the eye and eye socket, so it’s not surprising that some migraine sufferers experience eye pain or eye socket pain as part of their migraine eye symptoms.
Learn more about Light Sensitivity and Migraines.