Migraines and Visual Disturbances: What You Should Know

Migraines and Visual Disturbances: What You Should Know


Personal experience with migraine attacks can vary greatly, with some individuals experiencing visual disturbances before or during a migraine attack. These visual symptoms, often referred to as aura, can range from zigzag lines and flashing lights to blind spots and blurry vision. Understanding and tracking these visual disturbances is crucial for accurate diagnosis, effective management, and improved quality of life.

Understanding Visual Disturbances during Migraines

Visual disturbances, also known as aura symptoms, are common before or during a migraine attack. They act as warning signs, alerting individuals to an impending migraine. Different types of visual disturbances can be experienced:

Zigzag lines and flashing lights

Many individuals with migraine attacks report seeing zigzag lines or flashing lights in their visual field. These visual disturbances can resemble electric currents or shimmering patterns. For example, imagine looking through a broken kaleidoscope, where the images appear fragmented and shimmering.

Blind spots and partial vision loss

Blind spots or scotomas may appear in the visual field during a migraine attack. These spots can block parts of the visual scene, resulting in temporary partial vision loss. Some individuals compare this experience to looking through a foggy or smudged window, where certain areas of their vision are obscured.

Tunnel vision and blurry vision

Some individuals experience tunnel vision, where their visual field narrows, or blurry vision, making objects appear unfocused or hazy. These visual disturbances can affect daily activities and navigation. Imagine wearing goggles that restrict your peripheral vision or looking through a smeared lens, making everything appear blurred.

Importance of Tracking Visual Symptoms

Tracking visual symptoms during migraine attacks serves several important purposes:

Helping to diagnose migraine attacks and differentiate from other conditions

When seeking medical help, it is crucial to share specific visual symptoms with healthcare providers. By providing an accurate and detailed description of visual disturbances, including their frequency and duration, doctors can use this information as diagnostic criteria for migraine attacks. This helps in ruling out other conditions that may present with similar visual symptoms, such as retinal disorders or optic neuropathy.

Monitoring the severity and progression of migraine attacks

Tracking visual disturbances allows individuals to identify patterns and triggers for their symptoms. By noting any changes in the severity, duration, or frequency of visual symptoms, individuals can assess the effectiveness of different migraine treatments and make informed decisions about their management plan. For example, if someone notices that their visual disturbances worsen after consuming certain foods or being exposed to bright lights, they can modify their lifestyle or treatment approach accordingly.

Tracking changes and fluctuations in visual disturbances over time

Documenting new or worsening visual symptoms during migraine attacks is essential for ensuring appropriate medical attention. Additionally, individuals may notice improvements or alleviation of visual disturbances, indicating successful management strategies. By keeping track of these changes over time, individuals can gain a better understanding of their migraine attacks and communicate effectively with healthcare providers about their progress and treatment options.

Methods for Recording Visual Symptoms

There are various methods for tracking and recording visual symptoms during migraine attacks:

Keeping a migraine diary or journal

A migraine diary or journal is an effective way to record visual symptoms. Individuals can note the occurrence of visual disturbances during each migraine episode, track the frequency, duration, and intensity of symptoms, and identify any additional factors or triggers associated with visual disturbances. They can also include information on any associated symptoms, such as head pain, nausea, or sensitivity to light and sound. A sample entry may look like:

Date and Time: October 15, 2022 – 8:00 PM

Duration: 30 minutes

Visual Symptoms: Zigzag lines in my left visual field, followed by blind spots and blurred vision

Accompanying Symptoms: Moderate head pain on the right side, mild nausea

Potential Triggers: Skipped meals, exposure to bright lights

Using migraine tracking apps or digital tools

Migraine tracking apps and digital tools provide a convenient and efficient way to monitor and track visual symptoms. These tools often have features that allow individuals to record the specific details of their visual disturbances, such as the type of aura experienced, the duration, and any associated symptoms. Some apps may also provide insights into triggers and patterns based on the recorded data. Examples of popular migraine tracking apps include Migraine Buddy, Migraine Coach, and Migraine Monitor.

Communicating with healthcare providers effectively

Sharing recorded visual symptoms during medical appointments is essential for accurate diagnosis and treatment planning. By discussing any concerns or questions regarding visual disturbances, individuals can work collaboratively with healthcare providers to find the most suitable management approach. It’s important to describe the visual symptoms in detail and mention any changes or patterns noticed over time.

Tips for Effective Tracking of Visual Symptoms during Migraines

To ensure effective tracking of visual symptoms during migraine attacks, consider the following tips:

Be consistent in recording visual symptoms

Establish a routine for documenting experiences and avoid relying solely on memory to recall symptoms. Consistency in recording helps to maintain accurate and reliable information.

Use descriptive language while recording

Detail the specific visual disturbances experienced during migraine attacks. Include information about any accompanying symptoms, if present, to provide a comprehensive picture of the episode. Instead of simply noting “blurred vision,” describe the quality of the blurriness, such as “objects appeared out of focus and hazy.”

Utilize visual aids, if necessary

For better visualization and enhanced description, consider drawing or sketching the visual disturbances experienced during migraine attacks. Visual aids can assist healthcare providers in understanding the nature of the symptoms. You can also use online resources or apps that provide visual representation options to better illustrate your experiences.

Note the timing and duration of visual symptoms

Record when the visual disturbances begin and end, along with the duration of their occurrence. This information helps in understanding the temporal patterns of visual symptoms and can be particularly useful for identifying prodromal or warning signs of an impending migraine attack.

Pay attention to triggers or factors preceding visual symptoms

Document any patterns or commonalities observed before the onset of visual disturbances. This could include factors such as stress, hormonal changes, certain foods or beverages, sleep patterns, or environmental triggers. Identifying potential triggers or triggers to avoid in the future can aid in the management of migraine attacks.


Visual disturbances during migraine attacks are common and often serve as warning signs. Tracking and recording these visual symptoms play a crucial role in the diagnosis, management, and treatment of migraine attacks. By actively participating in the tracking process and effectively communicating with healthcare providers, individuals can gain a better understanding of their migraine attacks and improve their overall quality of life.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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