More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Ocular migraine: What causes it?
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Sep 14, 2007

What causes an ocular migraine ? a migraine aura without the headache? Is it a sign of something serious?

Answer: Usually, an ocular migraine is not cause for concern. But ocular migraine symptoms can interfere with daily activities, such as reading and driving. These episodes, also called migraine aura or optical migraine, occur without a headache and are relatively common. During an ocular migraine, you may see:

  • Flashes of light
  • Zigzagging patterns
  • Blind spots
  • Shimmering spots or stars
No one knows exactly what causes ocular migraines. In some people, it's related to eating certain foods such as chocolate, nuts, shellfish or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Others may have ocular migraine episodes brought on by caffeine or alcohol. Some believe that tension and fatigue are linked to this condition, but researchers have not found a consistent link.

It's possible that you may have several ocular migraine episodes in a short interval of time, and then not experience any for months or even years before experiencing additional episodes. If ocular migraines persist, worsen or become accompanied by a migraine headache, talk to your doctor to seek appropriate treatment for your condition.


thanks David, by the way i hope you are feeling well.

Your site is great, its helped me alot

I have been getting these for years, I never met anyone that has them without the headaches, I dont get headaches, I lose my vision for half an hour and see bright flashing lights in a zig zag pattern. I have never been able to identify a trigger.

If you didnt know better you would think you were having a stroke or had a brain tumour or something, but they dont last and seem to be harmless.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Yes. The first couple of times I had one of these they scared the bejesus out of me. But as you say, after a few, they're harmless and don't last very long, though they are certainly a tad distracting and disconcerting while they're in progress.


Ahhh, so that's what those are. First time I got mine I was driving when all of the sudden, I couldn't see anything. It felt as if I was staring at the sun too long and was blinded by it. I also get them during excessive reading periods (aka study time) -- books or computer. I can't make out one word which is a bit freaky. :D
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