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Ocular migraines are a common type of a headache that can vary from person to person. Although migraines in other parts of the brain are accompanied by varying severities of pain, ocular migraines can occur without any pain at all. Some call them “silent migraines” because you may have all the pre-emptive aura symptoms, but the attack of migraine pain never comes. Aura is common in ocular migraines since it’s heavily related to your eyesight and other senses. Although it can be a relief not to experience the throbbing headache pain associated with migraines, sometimes the aura symptoms are just as uncomfortable.

Ocular migraines without headache can be an inconvenience for any sufferer. Symptoms are known to affect your senses and perception. For example, seeing spots or stars, seeing zigzags, or even partial vision loss is common for aura before an ocular migraine. It’s also common to experience auditory hallucinations, and tasting or smelling things that you haven’t encountered. Because these symptoms toy with your perception of reality, maintaining your normal routine or activities can be extremely difficult. It can be dangerous for a person who regularly gets ocular migraines to drive because of the visual impairment and general discomfort that can distract them from the road. Reading and writing can also be tedious tasks when your vision is disturbed.

It’s recommended to check in with a doctor to confirm these symptoms are from silent migraines and not something more serious, like a stroke or a seizure. Although you don’t feel the headache pain, your doctor may still prescribe migraine medication to address the other symptoms. Your doctor will likely encourage you to take note of the different environmental and lifestyle triggers that precede your ocular migraine. In many cases, overstimulation of the senses can lead to an ocular migraine with aura. For example, loud sounds, bright or flashing lights, or strong smells. Our nerve cells that respond to signals from our senses can go into overdrive when over stimulated. Knowing which triggers to avoid can save you the stress and discomfort of having an aura and a migraine.

As we age, our migraines evolve and change with us. For many that can mean their migraines are less painful from a headache and more stressful on the body from the other symptoms. Elderly people who are used to having ocular migraines tend to have an increase in sensory disruptions and a decrease in headaches. The aura can also begin to cause blackouts or memory loss. It’s especially important as an elderly person to check in with the doctor because your chance of stroke increases and strokes have similar symptoms to an ocular migraine (sensory disturbance).

Ocular migraines can occur with or without headache pain. The symptoms you experience before the pain can sometimes be just as uncomfortable and inconvenient. Although you don’t have to monitor the pain severity of your migraines, it’s wise to monitor the aura and other symptoms you experience so you can know what to expect and be able to decipher your individual triggers. Everyone is different, and our experiences of migraines are no exception.