Can vision problems cause migraines?

December 20, 2019

If you’ve been experiencing inexplicable headaches or migraines, they may be stemming from a vision issue that you’re unaware of. While there are many different causes of migraines, these types of headaches and visual problems are closely related.

Find out more about migraines and how they may be triggered by your vision.


According to the American Migraine Foundation, about thirty-six million Americans, or 12 percent of the population, suffer from migraine headaches. Women are three times as likely to experience migraines than men, and migraines affect 30 percent of women over a lifetime.

3 percent of the population also suffer from chronic migraines, which is a migraine the lasts for at least 15 days each month or at least 6 months.

If you’re dealing with a migraine, you’ll experience a headache that is moderately or severely painful. Migraines tend to get worse with physical activity, and will typically throb, more so on one side. You’ll also experience increased sensitivity to light, sounds or smells, and your headache will typically last for four to forty-eight hours.

While it’s unclear what happens in the brain to start a migraine, science has discovered that there are certain “triggers” that raise the risk of a migraine. These triggers can include hormonal fluctuations, weather or bright lights, smells, alcohol, foods, poor sleep and high stress. However, there are some people that do not have certain triggers at all.


If you have poor vision, you may squint often or hold items up close or far away from your face in order to see items clearly. This can have a negative impact on your vision over time and weaken muscles and nerves. You could also strain your eyes by reading in poor lighting. When your eyes are constantly straining, it could trigger a migraine.

There are eye conditions that can trigger migraines including glaucoma and papilloedema. Glaucoma causes the pressure to build up in the eye and damage the optic nerve. Papilloedema is when the optic nerve swells due to other medical issues. In order to relieve these migraines, the conditions must be treated.


Just as vision problems can spark migraines, migraine symptoms can impair vision. Migraines can set off light flashes called auras, which is short-term vision loss. During these auras, streaks of light and sparkles impair vision for anywhere from ten to thirty minutes.

An ocular migraine causes temporary vision loss in one eye, which can occur at any point during a migraine cycle.

If you’re dealing with migraines or severe headaches and you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important that you inform both your family doctor and your eye doctor. Your family doctor may recommend that you see your eye doctor so he or she can give you an eye exam and determine if eye issues are the reason you’re experiencing migraines.

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