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Headaches and migraines: Vision, vertigo and dizziness

As well as an intense headache, migraine can also cause vision problems, dizziness and the more extreme form of dizziness, called vertigo.

These symptoms are usually experienced in the type of migraine called migraine with aura where there are warning signs, such as vision problems and feeling dizzy, before the head pain begins.

Symptoms may build up over 5-20 minutes and may go away within an hour.

Always seek medical advice for migraine symptoms so they can be diagnosed and treated. It can help to keep a diary of symptoms - when they happened, how long they lasted, and what was happening at the time - to help check for any patterns or possible triggers.

Vision problems with migraines

During a migraine some people experience:

  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Seeing patterns of spots, sparkles, stars or zig-zags
  • Blind spots in the normal field of vision
  • Tunnel vision giving a blinkered effect
  • Unable to see due to temporary blindness.


Retinal migraine

Vision problems with migraine can be due to a type of migraine called retinal migraine or ocular migraine.

During these episodes affecting vision a person can be scared and disorientated, but once the attack is over there is usually no lasting damage to eyesight. However, blood flow may be affected over time which can affect the retina at the back of the eye in some cases.

During a retinal migraine a doctor, optometrist, or ophthalmologist (eye specialist) may be able to see a reduced flow of blood to an eye using an ophthalmoscope. This can help with the diagnosis alongside symptoms that will have been described.

Balance problems with migraines

During migraines some people experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Things around you seem to be spinning, called vertigo
  • Balance problems.


Vestibular migraine

Dizziness linked to migraines can also cause vestibular migraine, referring to channels in the ears that help with balance, also called migrainous vertigo.

These attacks can last from a few hours to several days and the person having the migraine may need to seek relief by staying in a dark room.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 05, 2016

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