Ocular, Optical, and Ophthalmic Migraines

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

Ocular, Optical, and Ophthalmic Migraines

Migraine disease is not only painful and potentially debilitating, it can be confusing. There are different types of Migraine, and some should be approached and treated differently than others. That makes it important that Migraine be properly diagnosed.

In any health field, there needs to be standardization in diagnosing. If every doctor used different diagnostic criteria and classifications, there would be total chaos. It would be impossible to communicate with patients, other doctors, researchers, etc. In the field of Migraine disease and headaches, the gold standard for diagnosis and classification is the International Headache Society's International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd Edition (ICHD-II).

Questions often arise about ocular, optical, and ophthalmic Migraines. These questions, however, are difficult if not impossible to answer because there are no such Migraine classifications in the ICHD-II, no such diagnosis listed there. Although there are doctors who use these diagnoses, they use them differently, making it difficult for anyone else to enter a discussion or answer questions.


Mary Jane reports having been diagnosed with ocular Migraines. Her Migraines typically beginning with six to 18 hours of mood swings, excessive yawning, food cravings, and unusually frequent urination followed by tiny blind spots in her vision (scotoma) and  extreme sensitivity to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia). These symptoms are followed by a headache that is on one side (unilateral), throbbing with her pulse (pulsatile), and moderate to severe in intensity. Her ICHD-II diagnosis? Migraine with aura. She sometimes has the same symptoms, but without the headache. The ICHD-II diagnosis for those Migraine attacks is still Migraine with aura, but the descriptive term acephalgic (meaning without head pain) is added, acephalgic Migraine with aura.

Lou has been diagnosed as having optical Migraines. She reports having quickly developing intense headaches on the right side of her head, focused around her eye. She also reports extreme nausea and vomiting. Her optometrist diagnosed her with optical Migraines. Her ICHD-II diagnosis? Migraine without aura.

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