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Ask Dr. Dan B. Your Own Question
Dr. Dan B.
Dr. Dan B., Board Certified Ophthalmologist
Category: Eye
Satisfied Customers: 3343
Experience:  Eye surgeon experienced in cataracts, glaucoma, retina & neuro-ophthalmology
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I started seeing jagged lines. It started suddenly and

lasted for about an hour.
I... Show More
lasted for about an hour.
I wasnt able to tell if it was happening with just one eye or both.
My vision seemed sliglhly blurred.
My head hurts and I normally dont get headaches. The lines are gone now but my head still hurts.
Having said that, I didn't see any type of flashing lights or colors.
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Hello and thanks for your question.

Your symptoms sound consistent with a migraine headache. A typical migraine headache starts with these shimmering or flashing lights, often times they surround a blurry area or have dots or jaggedly lines associated with them. They tend to progressively increase in intensity and sometimes march across the visual field. Many times this is then accompanied by nausea, irritability, sensitivity to bright lights and/or loud noises. After the onset of the lights (called scintillating scotomas), the headache typically starts and the light show tends to progressively go away.

If you have any questions about treatment your primary care doctor can discuss these with you but there are options to treat them prophylactically and also to abort these headaches as they come on.

Does this make sense? Do you have any other concerns that I haven't addressed?

I am happy to be able to help you today. I will also be happy to answer any other questions until you have the information you need.

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My opinion is solely informative and does not constitute a formal medical opinion or recommendation. For a formal medical opinion and/or recommendation you must see an eye doctor.

Customer reply replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for the answer.

Some of the symptoms that you are describing don't exactly match what I had. For instance, I didn't experience shimmering or flashing lights. I did see lots of small bars of light but they were "constant" as opposed to flashing. Also, I did experience a headache but the intensity was nowhere near to what I hear people describe as a migrane.

1. Do you still think this is a migrane headache?

2. I had a headache and saw lines for about an hour. Then the lines stopped but I still have a headache an hour later. How long do the migranes usually last? Is there something I can take for that?

3. Based on the symptoms, do I need to check this with an ophtalmologist?

Thank you

The visual phenomenon that people experience with migraines do vary from person to person but tend to involve blurry vision with a lighted phenomenon; many people describe them as shimmering, but most consistently is an abnormal lighted visual phenomenon associated with blurring or hazy vision.

One of the less commonly known features of migraines is that many persons can have this visual migraine phenomenon without actually having headache, just having a migraine headache. The spectrum of severity of headaches among migraine sufferers runs the gamut from no headache to severe, debilitating headaches.

But the history you've described of having this lighted phenomenon followed by a headache that persists after the lighted phenomenon has resolved is classic for migraines.

The visual phenomenon from migraines usually last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, but the headache itself can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.

Many people find that over-the-counter migraine preparations such as Excedrin-migraine work well. The common theme among these preparations is the ingredient of caffeine. There are prescription medicines that can be taken on a daily basis to help prevent them (if they become frequent enough to alter your life) and there are also medicines that can be taken on an as needed basis to help abort the headaches once they start. Most primary care doctors feel comfortable prescribing these, but if not, a neurologist would be a good place to start.

I think the only reasons to see an ophthalmologist is if you are having new floating things in your vision associated with flashing or arcing lights; this constellation of symptoms is indicative of retinal traction and not migraines. These two conditions can be commonly confused.

Also if you begin to have weakness, numbness, dizziness, lose vision in one eye for an extended period of time, or have double vision, these are abnormal characteristics of migraine headaches and would need to be assessed by a neurologist.

Did that answer your questions?

Sorry, the following paragraph probably didn't make sense unless I change it to the bolded text:

One of the less commonly known features of migraines is that many persons can have this visual migraine phenomenon without actually having headache; this is called an acephalgic migraine. The spectrum of severity of headaches among migraine sufferers runs the gamut from no headache to severe, debilitating headaches.

Sorry for the typo there.

Customer reply replied 6 years ago.

Thanks Doctor. This is very helpful. Everything indicates that this is just a migrane. Maybe not an acephalfic migrane because I do have a headache, but it is mild.

Two final follow up questions:

1. What could cause this type of migrane? If there is something that one should watch for, please let me know.

2. What was actually going on in my eye when my vison got blured and the lines appeared? in other words, what was happenning in the eye in connection with the migrane?

Appreciate your help Doctor.

There can be many triggers of migraine headaches such as food (cheese, wine, chocolates are common suspects), stress, fluorescent lighting to name a few, but sometimes the triggers are very individual for each person. As far as theh overall etiology behind the headaches, that is unknown, but there often times is a family history of these. What you should consider doing is if these become frequent then start to keep a headache diary about foods, events, or environments that may have caused them.

Your second question is a good one. When you experienced that blurry vision and the lines, those visual phenomena were actually generated by the brain; the brain is where the problem is and the eye is just an unwilling participant in the migraine process, and the lights and blurry vision are how it responds to this migraine process. Does that make sense? In other words, it is not the eye cauing these visual symptoms, but the brain causing the problems and causing the eye to see these things.

Customer reply replied 6 years ago.
This is very helpful. Thanks for all the information Doctor!
You're welcome. Good luck to you.