Visual disturbances caused by migraines


visual disturbances caused by migraines

Migraine with aura – when there is a flash in front of the eye

About 8 million people in Germany suffer from migraines.[1] The recurring headache attacks are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to noise and light. The throbbing, hammering and pulsing in the head lasts for varying lengths of time, from 4 to even 72 hours.[2] However, some migraine sufferers experience a so-called aura phase about 60 minutes before the headache.1

What is a migraine with aura?

while at the basilar migrainea very rare form of migraine with aura, is characterized by symptoms such as numbness or coordination problems, the typical aura is most often associated with temporary visual disturbances[3] how

  • visual field defects,
  • Flicker,
  • slowly expanding zigzag lines,
  • seeing double vision,
  • a flash in front of the eye or
  • shooting stars.

The visual disturbances associated with migraines are present even when those affected have their eyes closed. Balance or speech disorders, concentration problems, one-sided motor weakness and dizziness can also occur. Once the symptoms of migraine with aura, such as the visual disturbances, have subsided, the headaches, which usually occur on one side and are concentrated in the temple or eye area, set in. In some cases, however, the aura and headache can overlap, or the headache does not occur at all.

What helps in an emergency

If the symptoms are classified as mild or moderate, painkillers from the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or acetylsalicylic acid are usually used. But even if these are available in pharmacies without a prescription, migraineurs should not take them without consulting a doctor. If you take painkillers too often for migraines with or without aura, you risk drug-induced headaches. This means that medications that are actually intended to combat the headache disorder can themselves cause headaches. This is when migraine patients do not stick to the recommended dosage or swallow the preparations too often. The German Migraine and Headache Society also recommends taking a remedy for nausea and vomiting (antiemetics) about 10 minutes before taking the medication for the pain.[4] In addition to alleviating these two side effects, this has the advantage that the absorption of the painkiller is increased.

The same applies to the specific, prescription migraine drugs in acute therapy, the so-called triptans. They must be taken at the beginning of severe migraine attacks, but after the aura, i.e. after symptoms such as flashing in front of the eyes.[5] But as with all medicines, the same applies here: Side effects or interactions with other medicines can never be completely ruled out. It should therefore always be taken in close consultation with the doctor treating you.

Non-drug aids

In general, try to avoid trigger factors, i.e. triggers of migraines, such as stress, strong stimuli such as loud noises and distinctive scents or a broken wakefulness and sleep rhythm. The list of factors that are not the cause of migraines and the visual disturbances associated with them, but which can definitely “push” them, is long and differs from patient to patient. It is therefore advisable to keep a migraine diary in order to identify your personal triggers of migraine with aura. Progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen also seems to have a positive influence. This relaxation method is said to have a preventive effect in particular. But there are patients who, even in acute cases, report a milder course if they carry out specific exercises in which they tense certain muscle groups and then relax them again.[6]

[1] Taubert, Konrad: Treating migraines holistically. Stuttgart: TRIAS Verlag. 2006. pp. 16 – 20.

[2] Witten/Herdecke University: Patient guidelines for headaches and migraines. URL: (12/12/2019).

[3] Göbel, Hartmut: Successful against headaches and migraines. Eliminate causes, prevent them in a targeted manner, strategies for self-help. Berlin [u.a.] : jumper. 72014. p. 79.

[4] German Migraine and Headache Society eV: Diagnosis, acute therapy and prophylaxis of migraine. URL: (12/12/2019).

[5] Neurologists and psychiatrists online: acute migraine therapy. URL: (12/12/2019).

[6] Commission guidelines of the German Society for Neurology (ed.): Therapy of migraine attacks and prophylaxis of migraines. AWMF registration number: 030/057. URL: (12/12/2019).

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