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What causes an ophthalmic migraine?


Updated June 18, 2014

Question: What causes an ophthalmic migraine?
An ophthalmic migraine causes visual disturbances such as flashes of light and jagged lines. One eye is affected, and headache may be present. What causes an ophthalmic migraine?
Answer: Many factors can trigger an ophthalmic migraine. There are numerous hypotheses for what causes ophthalmic migraine including vasospasm and neuronal dysfunction.

An ophthalmic migraine may be triggered by the following:

  • Chemicals in food, such as MSG
  • caffeine
  • prescription medications
  • hormonal changes
  • alcohol
  • stress
  • sleep loss
  • weather changes

If you have an ophthalmic migraine, symptoms normally disappear on their own within a few hours. However, if you continue to have visual disturbances, seek advice from your healthcare provider.


Slamovits, Thomas L., and Ronald Burde. Neuro-ophthalmology, Textbook of Ophthalmology. Volume 6 ISBN 1-56375-099-6, Copyright 1994, Mosby-Year Book Europe, Ltd. Pp 181-83.

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