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What Causes Headaches with Vision Changes?

Certain types of migraine headaches are associated with changes in vision. While these symptoms can feel frightening, in most cases they’re not life-threatening and are short-lived. Still, regular bouts of migraine attacks with or without visual disturbance can cause significant distress and interfere with your daily life. For this reason it’s wise to visit a specialist to have your headaches evaluated. 

The compassionate team of top-quality ophthalmologists and optometrists at Suburban Eye Associates is dedicated to helping you keep your eyes healthy. Here we discuss how migraine headaches can affect your vision.

Retinal migraines and vision

Retinal migraines cause temporary vision loss. These repeated bouts of diminished vision or temporary blindness occur before the headache phase.

Unlike other types of headaches, retinal migraines only affect one eye. A retinal migraine attack may start with vision changes such as areas of reduced vision, seeing twinkling lights, or complete vision loss. 

Headache symptoms typically occur shortly after, usually within an hour of the onset of vision changes. Anyone with headaches with vision changes should visit an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive evaluation to determine the underlying cause. 

Migraine attacks and vision changes

Up to 30% of people who experience regular migraines have visual symptoms, part of what’s called an “aura.” As with retinal migraines, visual symptoms usually occur before the headache attack but may occur during the headache itself. The visual changes occur in both eyes and are most often in the form of flashing lights or blind spots. Distortion such as blurred vision can also occur. 

Visual changes associated with migraines are short-lived and typically last less than an hour. Because visual disturbance can be a warning sign of something serious, a thorough assessment is vital. 

What you should know about headaches with vision changes

Visual disturbance is common with certain types of headaches. However, it’s always necessary to rule out serious underlying issues. Migraines may change throughout life. They may become less severe or go away entirely. Some people experience visual symptoms without headache pain. These are often called silent migraines. It means that you get most of the typical migraine symptoms, including visual disturbance, but without the head pain. 

Warning signs to watch for

Sometimes headaches with visual changes are a warning sign of something serious. Signs and symptoms that warrant medical attention include:

If you’ve had a stable pattern but now have migraine symptoms that have suddenly changed, it’s wise to seek medical evaluation in this instance as well. 

Vision problems that can cause headaches

While certain migraines can cause visual changes, issues with your vision can trigger headaches. Eye strain and glaucoma are two situations commonly associated with headaches. Scheduling an assessment with an ophthalmologist is the first step to getting to the root of your headaches.

When you visit Suburban Eye Associates, you’re in good hands. Your eye doctor will recommend a course of action to treat vision problems related to headaches. Treatment approaches include:

The treatment your eye doctor recommends depends on the underlying cause of your headaches and vision changes. 

If you’re dealing with headaches that affect your vision, we can help. To schedule an appointment to have your headaches evaluated, call any of our three locations in Huntington Valley, Jenkintown, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or book online

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