Ocular migraine/Scintillating scotoma - ever have one?

I had an odd visual problem the other day that was kind of disconcerting. the symptoms fit both of these conditions but I didn’t think at the time to determine if it was one or both eyes being affected. There was some kind of squiggly shimmering shape in my field of view and my peripheral vision was pretty restricted without being tunnel-like. Its kind of hard to describe. No headache at all. It resolved itself in an hour. Anyway, I went to the optometrist and she said it fit the classic symptoms of an ocular migraine. Googling that led me to scintillating scotoma. Images from those links were very similar to what I experienced. I guess if it happens again I may consult an MD but it seems there’s nothing to be done about it.

I used to get regular migraines. That stopped for years, then I started getting ocular migraines with the same auras and missing letters and wiggling fields as my previous migraines, but without the severe headache (I would often get a headache, though, and would often feel weird and disembodied).

Since I’ve been off birth control pills, they have gone away or at least become much less frequent. I’m guessing from your username that going off bcp isn’t an option for you. :slight_smile:

It definitely sounds like an ocular migraine. I’ve been getting them occasionally for about 13 years or so.

No pain while they happen, though I sometimes have a slight headache afterwards.

There’s really not much to do but wait them out. It helps a bit to look at objects in the distance.

I haven’t found any common things that triggers them except that they occur more often when I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep and when I’ve been concentrating intently for a bit.

They seem to be harmless. I’ve been getting fewer of them the past few years.

I had one last summer, very colorful. My glasses have shiny but thin metal rims, and when I drive I can sometimes notice at the edge of my vision a reflection of the edge of the road going by backwards, because of the rims. One day this was particularly vivid and started having strong spectral colors to it, and it seemed like it had a kind of an inertia to it. When I would stop, it wouldn’t completely stop, it would kind of roll along a little while. It got more and more intense. When I took my glasses off, it didn’t go away. It was completely its own thing by this point and didn’t need any external stimulation. It was pretty distracting but I was only 1/4 mile from my driveway, and it was only off to the side, so I pressed on. It lasted a few minutes like this. Very remarkable and bizarre. This was my second ocular migraine, the first being in 1976. I did consult doctors, but they both said not to worry, it’s of no consequence. I only got the visual effects, no pain (for which I’m thankful).

Yup. Mine were nearly always a precursor to a full-blown migraine, so I was at least grateful I had a warning of the impending migraine. Otherwise they’re basically just annoying and harmless.

I could have written this but, in addition to feeling weird and disembodied, I’d feel that been-pulled-through-the-wringer lethargy for the rest of the day that I used to get with ‘normal’ migraines.

I hadn’t had a migraine for years but these sort-of migraines appeared just pre-menopause and stopped when menopause was complete. I’m guessing those sort of hormonal influences aren’t affecting you.

I got them thrice or four times within a year when I was in 8th and 9th grades (c. 1991). I would get a headache shortly afterwards. Thankfully I haven’t had one since.

I’ve had them. The first time was on a stressful day at work and I went straight to a doctor and then the hospital. Also had a scary throbbing headache earlier or I would have ignored it. I had an MRI and they decided I wasn’t dieing and gave me migraine medicine which I truly wish I’d not taken. I’ve had maybe 6 of them in as many years. No pain involved but they’re visually annoying. I check my BP when they occur to make sure they’re not a precursor to something.

It could also be a symptom of a retinal detachment/tear. Thats the symptom I had and had it treated with cryosurgery.

would the symptoms be continuous then?

Symptoms of a detached retina

Contact your ophthalmologist immediately if you notice any of these warning symptoms of a retinal detachment:

flashing lights
sudden onset of new floaters
gradual shading of vision from one side (like a curtain being drawn)
rapid decline in sharp, central vision. This occurs when the macula — the area of the retina responsible for central vision — detaches.


I have them now and then. They don’t hurt, or presage anything, for me. My opthamologist identified them for me. She told me I should pull over if I’m driving. Sounded like good advice.

I’ve noticed that sinus trouble sometimes trigger mine.

An ocular migraine only lasts 20-30 minutes. Also the blurred area follows a typical pattern: first a spot, then a ring that expands and fades away. A detached retina would not fade so quickly, nor would it change its shape in that manner.

does this block your vision that badly? I find it difficult to read print but I had no problem driving to the doctor. Not sure if I could read an exit sign or not. I was more frightened of something serious than anything.

We’ve had several threads about this.

I used to get “regular” migraines, really horrible ones, lasting up to several days. Then, a few years ago I began getting the ocular type. I knew what it was, because my mother often got them, and never had the headache type. Now, when I get one, I’m so glad it’s not painful.

My mother’s were always a diamond shape, but mine are round, and 3D, like a beach ball. It is gold and black, like a crystal with light green and lavender highlights. The whole thing seems to scintillate and shimmer, and keeps growing until it gets so big it’s beyond my field of vision. And yes, if I had one while driving, I’d definitely pull over for the duration.

panache45 have you seen a doctor for this? I’ve never heard one described like that. that sounds like what I’d experience rubbing my eyes really hard which would involve pressure on the whole eye.

I’ve had occasional ocular migraines, the kind with the tunnel vision or blind spots, throughout my life but only up to two times a year. Over the last two years, I’ve developed some very colorful ones with flashes, sparkles in the air, and more. They usually only last a short time and do not seem to relate to a regular migraine as the older ones do. They are sometimes accompanied by dizziness. Neither my ophthalmologist or ENT know why they appeared recently. I just keep sunglasses handy and am now looking to change my career a bit so it doesn’t affect my work.

Here’s my previous post about them, with links to even earlier threads. This just comes up here every so often; it’s rare enough to not be a topic of conversation in the mainstream media, but common enough that multiple people of a population the size of “Active SDMB Posters” have it.

Anyway, I get the “black static” (like static on an analog TV, but white-on-black instead of black-on-white) scintillating scotoma that begins as a spot in the middle of my field of vision and gradually spreads to become a crescent bracketing my field of vision. When it leaves my field of vision, the migraine is over. I sometimes have some very, very mild, vague pain during one, but nothing even worth taking an Advil for. Mainly, they mess with my ability to read by getting in the way of the words. I seem to get them more when I drink a lot of coffee. I can go years between attacks (such as they are).

Moved to IMHO, home of medical threads, from MPSIMS.