My Ocular Migraine Experience

To my knowledge, I have never had a migraine headache. I remembering having headaches I would describe as fairly severe, but never one involving nausea or vision issues.

So a few weeks ago I’m working at my desk in my office when everything started to shimmer around me. Patterns of shimmering, rainbow-like phenomenon appeared in the periphery of my vision and gradually expanded until they filled my entire visual frame.

The phenomenon appeared to be moving, like some sort of wave–it strongly resembled what you might see when looking over the top of an extremely hot surface during the summer.

Apparently the term for what I experienced is an ocular migraine,

Ocular migraines are painless, temporary visual disturbances that can affect one or both eyes. Though they can be frightening, ocular migraines typically are harmless and self-resolve without medication within 20 to 30 minutes.

Other terms used by eye doctors to describe ocular migraines include ophthalmic migraines, retinal migraines and eye migraines.

Aside from feeling a bit disoriented for the 30 minutes or so it took for the effect to diminish and then disappear, I didn’t suffer any ill effects. I never experienced an actual headache or any other side effect.

It was just extremely disconcerting.

These sort of visual auras have been offered as one possible explanation of religious visions reported by people in pre-modern times (though there is good reason to be extremely careful and thorough before retroactively medicalizing such experiences).

All told, this was one of the more bizarre things I’ve experienced in my 47 years on this planet.


This Vimeo video–made by someone who suffers from frequent¬†ocular migraines–does an excellent job of depicting what I experienced during the event:


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