Published on January 29, 2022

I'm seeing jagged lines in my vision, what is it?

man grips head in pain with ocular migraine

Have you ever seen a temporary black spot in your vision?  How about jagged white lines?  Something that looks like heat waves shimmering in your peripheral vision? If so, you may have been experiencing what is known as an ocular migraine.

About Ocular Migraines

Ocular migraines occur when blood vessels spasm in the visual center of the brain or in the retina. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, and symptoms include:

  • Black, blocked out spots in your vision

  • Jagged white lines, almost like lightning streaks across your vision

  • Headache (this is a less common symptom)

Visual symptoms will usually resolve on their own in under an hour and generally just feel odd and disorienting. Although the symptoms can cause a great deal of anxiety, especially on the first occurrence, ocular migraines rarely cause any long term problems and almost never require treatment as long as they are not accompanied by significant headaches.

After an Ocular Migraine

Many people who get ocular migraines tend to have them occur in clusters. They will get three or four episodes within a week and then may not have another one for several months or even years. There are some characteristics that raise your risk for ocular migraines including personal or family history of migraines or motion sickness.

It’s  a good idea to have a thorough exam by your eye doctor soon after an ocular migraine to be sure there is nothing else causing the problem. Flashing lights and new floating spots in your vision could be the sign of a retinal tear or detachment.

If you experience sudden lines, waves or black spots in your vision try to remain calm, pull over if you are driving, and just wait for them to go away.  If they persist for longer than an hour, then you should seek immediate medical attention.