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Visual Disturbances/Triggers

I had pretty bad ocular/retinal migraines in my adolescent years. My left eye would slowly go blind, then within 30 minutes I would have a debilitating headache with nausea and extreme sensory sensitivity. Nowadays about 3 or so years since the last migraine attack that had that regular pattern, I still have some issues that might be lingering migraine symptoms

1. Striped patterns 'glitch out' and make me feel sick
2. I have after image in my vision, sometimes worse than other times
3. Sometimes I have the feeling like there are bands overlaying my vision, even though they're not clearly there, it is somehow still noticeable. It's hard to explain that one...
4. Sometimes I can see flashes/light briefly pop in to my vision before disappearing. Sometimes it is so quick I have to assess if I imagined it! haha

So my two questions are: Does anybody know if it's possible to have these visual disturbances without any actual headache? And are those migraines I had in adolescence foreshadowing to a bigger neurological problem or is that just my health anxiety talking?


  1. Thank you for reaching out and sharing your experiences with us. Yes, it's entirely possible to have a migraine attack without the headache phase. These are called silent or acephalgic migraine attacks. Let me share information on this type of migraine with you:
    You may want to have your eyes examined to make sure everything checks out OK.
    Will you keep us posted?
    Nancy Harris Bonk, Patient Advocate/Moderator

    1. Hi Nancy,

      I went to the optometrist and got everything checked; all good! My retina and other eye functions are perfect, and the optometrist said that I should assume that it is stemming from a purely neurological issue and not eye-related. He recommended some glasses with special lenses that can lessen the visual disturbance during bad episodes.

      I still have the visual disturbances as well as some anxiety about if the symptoms are pointing to something like MS so I will be trying to see a neurologist as soon as possible to answer these questions! (MS runs in my family) I can keep you updated on any answers I get from the neurologist!


    2. Thank you for the update! Good to hear your eyes check out OK.
      I can imagine having anxiety about having MS, especially since it runs in your family. My fingers are crossed for a good outcome. If you need more resources on MS, we have a sister site I'll share with you here;
      I look forward to your update!! Nancy Harris Bonk, Patient Advocate/Moderator

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. Those visual symptoms can really be quite a lot to handle I'm sure. I'm sorry you are experiencing them. I agree with Nancy that those attacks without the headache that you are experiencing may be silent migraines. Please check out the link she sent you. As to your second question I would recommend following up with your doctors to make sure you have the peace of mind in knowing what is going on with your neurological concerns. If you are having some anxiety that should help ease some of that by having the counsel of doctors to guide you and provide you with some information on what you are experiencing. Warmly, Cheryl team

    1. I began having migraines when I was 14 YO, in English class, just before school let out. Suddenly, I saw a wriggling mote in my eye on the right side of my vision field. As the class (which seemed to last forever) went on, the mote grew into a crescent shaped snake that had a rattlesnake pattern of blue, red, orange, yellow, green, teal and other colors, flashing and dancing across this thing looking like a snake curled around the right side of my vision field. It expanded til I could not see on my right side. When I finally made it to the bus I almost could not see, but it had started to fade when I got home, and told my mom, because I thought I had a brain tumor or something.
      I have had migraines since then, and often they start with the "colorful snake" (it is really quite beautiful) and often, it goes away with no headache.
      Several years ago, I started having numbness on the right side, often associated with a headache, but often not. I went to a Neurologist, who diagnosed it as something called "Migraine Equivalent Syndrome". I was given Fiorinal, which oddly works quite well, even on the numbness, when nothing else really helped.
      It can be scary, just soldier on and try everything the doctors tell you. Something somewhere will help.

      1. What an experience you've had with symptoms of migraine equivalents. How scary it can be - losing vision or having right-sided numbness (hemiplegic migraine symptoms ??). So glad the Fiorinal is effective, especially for the numbness you experience. Hoping you are managing well, and thanks for the words of strength you offer in soldiering on in difficult situations. Thanks for joining the conversation. Wishing you a gentle day ~ Rebecca (community advocate)

    2. I have had migraines since I was in my teens and I'm now 54. They can be anywhere from 3 a week to once every other month. My migraines used to start with me being unable to string a sentence together or a blind spot in one of my eyes but always flowed by zigzag lines d sensitivity to light and sound. They are not as frequent as they used to be as I'm trying to reduce stress and try to follow a reasonable level healthy diet. But I learnt along the way that if you are worried you should seek medical advice and not keep it to yourself as the anxiety can trigger a migraine. All I can say is that migraine is a different journey for everyone.

      1. I'm sorry you have suffered from migraines for so long. My husband and I both have suffered similarly since our teens. Have you found any treatment therapy that helps you? I'm glad the healthy diet and reduced stress are helping you. You are right in saying that you should seek medical advice for your migraine attacks. It is important that we keep on top of self-care! Warmly, Cheryl team

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