Retinal migraines are a type of migraine that affect the eyes. They can cause temporary vision loss in 1 eye and other eye symptoms.
Retinal migraines are less common than other types of migraine.
Check if it's a retinal migraine
Retinal migraines usually affect 1 eye.
They often come on suddenly and symptoms include:
- vision loss – this usually lasts around 10 to 20 minutes but can sometimes last up to 1 hour
- a blind spot in your vision
- a headache – you may get this at the same time as the eye symptoms or shortly afterwards
- other eye symptoms, such as blurred vision and seeing flashing lights, zigzag patterns or coloured spots or lines
- feeling sick or being sick
Sometimes you can get the eye symptoms without having a headache.
Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:
- you have vision problems, such as a blind spot in your vision, for the first time
You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
You have retinal migraines and:
- they're getting worse
- you're getting them more often
- there's a change to your usual symptoms
Immediate action required: Call 999 if:
- you have a headache that came on suddenly and is extremely painful
- you suddenly have problems speaking or remembering things
- you have sudden vision loss, blurred vision or double vision
- you suddenly feel dizzy, drowsy or confused
- you have a seizure or fit
- you have a high temperature with a stiff neck, pain when looking at bright lights, pale and blotchy skin or a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it
- you have sudden weakness in your arms or legs on 1 side of your body, or 1 side of your face
These are signs of more serious conditions and you need to get immediate medical help.
Treatments for retinal migraine
Treatment for retinal migraines is not usually needed if you do not have them very often.
If you have them frequently, a GP may suggest:
- trying to avoid things that cause your migraines, such as cutting down on caffeine or alcohol
- painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen
- medicines to stop you feeling sick or being sick
- medicines to help prevent migraines, such as topiramate or amitriptyline
- a few weeks of acupuncture
If these treatments do not help control your migraines, you may be referred to a specialist called a neurologist for more tests and treatment.
Causes of retinal migraine
Retinal migraines are thought to happen when the blood vessels in your eye suddenly narrow, restricting the blood flow.
Things that can cause them include:
- caffeine and alcohol
- high blood pressure
- bending over
- low blood sugar
- some types of hormonal contraception
Keeping a record of when you get migraines in a diary can help you work out what might be causing them.
Things you can do if you get retinal migraines
There are things you can do if you get retinal migraines. A GP may suggest trying them before recommending other treatments.
try sleeping or lying down in a dark room during a migraine
drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
have a healthy diet and eat meals at regular times
exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep
try to keep to a healthy weight
try to manage your stress levels
avoid things you know can trigger migraines like caffeine and alcohol
Page last reviewed: 19 January 2023
Next review due: 19 January 2026