Medical Optical Migraine

  1. Anybody else had this?
    It's a recognised medical phenomenon that's quite bizarre, slightly unsettling and could lead the gullible into all sorts of hysterical beliefs.

    In my lifetime so far it's happened just twice. And that's a long, long time.

    You get a little spot of scintillation appears in the visual field, both eyes, which grows and grows getting bigger, brighter and wilder. Usually in a big circle or sector of a circle with a hollow centre.
    Eventually it gets so big it expands out of sight and the shows over.

    You wouldn't want to be on the Motorway. But it's completely painless.
  2. jcsd
  3. I get these roughly every two months. The static-like scintillations grow and cover between 40 and 75 percent of my vision. The first time it happened I was driving to my bank, and I started to notice it just as I was arriving. I parked and barely staved off a panic attack. I thought I was having a stroke, but as it grew to take most of my vision I decided to just relax and not call 911 or get help because I was sure it was a massive deadly stroke, or at least one that would take my vision if I was saved. I was depositing my checks about 40 minutes later with reduced peripheral vision but no more central distortion. Within the hour everything was back to normal, and at no point was there pain.

    They started shortly after turning 26 about 18 months ago. I never take my vision for granted anymore and always wear safety glasses when doing anything that could damage my vision.
  4. I will add more for those that are interested. For me, the distortion starts as a small spot usually in the bottom right of my field of vision, thought never at the edge. It grows for 15 minutes and then reaches max size usually around 50 percent of my field of vision and always overflows the border of my vision. It is never centered.

    With eyes closed, the distortion is black and white, but also contains colors that exist in my unaffected field of view. When my eyes are closed they are only black and white. This affected area shimmers and vibrates and is similar in some ways to the images produced by a kaleidoscope, however it is not entirely fluid, and the motion of the particles is certainly not random either.

    When it is in full effect, I must look to the right (mine always affects the right side of my field of view) of any object I intend to view and observe the area with my peripheral vision. I have never been handicapped by this to the point that I had to remain stationary or seated.

    I am glad you mentioned this, although it may or may not belong in this section as it is a documented medical phenomenon. I have enjoyed reading these forums for some time now and have never had a single subject on which I felt as though I could contribute anything of substance! I hope someone finds this interesting.

    This image I found using google image search and some relevant terms is the closest I can find to how my vision appears in the affected area when my eyes are closed during an episode.

    It is fun to imagine the occipital lobe as an organic machine or computer that is subject to errors or unintended operational conditions in ways similar to a computer's graphics card. I am quite grateful that I do not have to endure head pain with the episodes because I can not begin to imagine pain and delirium on a scale parallel with the upheaval my vision undergoes.
  5. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

  6. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    This is close to what it looks like if it wasn't moving.

    Attached Files:

  7. Yeah, totally. Yet mine always covers a right corner (usually the entire right side of my vision) so I haven't seen any portion of the convex side of it large enough to discern a shape before it has grown out my field of view. The pattern moves so fast, that I wouldn't be able to draw an accurate snapshot of it's entirety at any given moment.
  8. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Mine is centered. Too bad you can't see the whole thing.

    I think it is the most fascinating thing. How was your first time?
  9. Scary, but interesting. I thought it was a stroke, and I just came to grips with it, I started scrawling some messages to family on a receipt I found in the center console of my car, and that kept my mind off it. Before long it was over. After that, I googled it and realized what had happened. Now I get all excited when they come on and I describe them to whoever I am with. I wish I could draw.
  10. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Sounds like me. Luckily I was at my computer when it happened and started googling, and read that it was just a painless migrine *with benefits*. So I relaxed.

    So nice to actually find others that have these. Most people I described them to though I was on LSD.
  11. I dunno about draw, it's more of a Jackson Pollock with a hole in the middle!
  12. phyzguy

    phyzguy 2,498
    Science Advisor

    I get these every few months, and they look a lot like the picture posted by Hattattack. They can be quite debilitating while they last, and I usually feel a bit unfocused for 1-2 days afterwards. I have found that taking Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) helps me quits a bit. This is over the counter, but you have to ask for it from the pharmacist. You have to make sure it is pseudoephedrine, not Sudafed-PE, which is phenylephrine, and doesn't help. I found a US patent (#6642243) on the combination of pseudoephedrine, acetominophen, and caffeine for treating migraines. When I first feel one coming, I take two Sudafeds, two Tylenol, and a cup of coffee, and I've found that it really lessens the intensity and duration of the attacks. If you suffer from these, you might want to give it a try.
  13. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    You have a classic migraine then, you are getting an "aura" with pain.

    Opthalmic or occular migarines are completely painless, you feel nothing. But all will have the crescent filled with geometric shapes, this is what makes them so unique and unlike other "migraines".

    Oh, maybe you guys are describing the auras of normal migraines. I'm describing the crescent opthalmic/occular migraine which is completely different.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2010
  14. lisab

    lisab 3,188
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    My doc says it's sometimes hard to distinguish between optical migraine and "silent migraine", which is aura without the headache. She seems to think I get optical migraines but I think it's silent migraine, especially after reading this thread.

    I get pixelated, sort of grainy vision, but not geometrical shapes.
  15. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    that's not what I have either.

    You and the others have this type, like the OP linked to.

    The type I have is opthalmic. I thought the OP had mispelled opthalmic since he had posted in S&D originally and was talking about it because it's so bizzarre.

    Seems there is more information on the internet now and they are combining the migraines now.

    Here is another example of mine. I have the crescent kind.

    My first experience "I had a very weird experience earlier today. I suddenly noticed a thin glowing white crescent filled with black geometrical designs in my peripheral vision.

    The only way I can explain it is if you were to take a thin glowing ring and cut it in half, keeping only the left half. It's glowing white, but is filled with portions of concentric circles and diagonal lines as if parts of triangles were visible, these are all black. The light is somehow flickering very fast, but not getting darker or brighter.

    The half ring continued to grow larger, then the designs at the top started rotating to the left as the bottom designs started rotating to the right, then the designs in the middle started undulating. The entire ring started to turn clockwise very slowly.

    I was very concerned, to say the least. I could tell it had to do with my vision as the half ring remained in my peripheral vision when I moved my eyes. I found online a description that might explain what I was seeing. It is called ophthalmic migraine. The ring finally drifted out of my vision after about 15 minutes, changing the entire time. When I was reading online I noticed the the letters under the "ring" were not visible at all."

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2010
  16. Hmmm

    I do remember things a bit similar like that when I was a kid, especially when tired, never experienced anything like that again after maybe age 20-25. It was intrueging, just to use a random word to express emotion.
  17. I've had them before....It happened to me on a few occasions two years prior to having very severe migraines. The severe migraines stopped after a few months, and I have had neither again.

    My experience of it was scintillating scotoma. It was partial but obstructed an important portion of my vision. It looked like dancing sunspots! They lasted from 30 to 60 minutes and were totally pain free.
  18. phyzguy

    phyzguy 2,498
    Science Advisor

    Mine are never completely pain-free, but the amount of pain varies - sometimes significant pain, sometimes mild pain. But I always have the visual symptoms, and they are very much like has been described and drawn in this thread. It sounds like there is a spectrum of how much pain you have.
  19. Never seen exactly what's being described, but if I pay attention I can see a snowy field of twinkling white points of light in my entire field of view. Far easier to see with my eyes closed.

    Other time I see artifacts in my peripheral vision that run if I try to look directly at them. I've learned to observe them without diverting my eyes so they don't keep moving. Basically the same trick it takes to imagine complex objects in full color as if you are really seeing them. You can't try to focus your eyes directly on it or it dissolves. The difference in visual artifacts is they move instead of dissolve, at least initially.
  20. The ones I had more resembled the second pic in post #14, but they were not really crescent shaped....they were more free-form and some were kite shaped.
  21. Optical migraine is a term which describes 'visual disturbances' associated with migraine,
    there are some excellent publications on migraine, including imagery submitted by migraineurs
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