Updated on  February 16, 2023
4 min read

Kaleidoscope Vision

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What is Kaleidoscope Vision?

Kaleidoscope vision refers to short-term distorted vision that causes visual images to look blurry, broken up, and bright in color — as though you are looking through a kaleidoscope. 

This type of vision is a side effect of a migraine aura, which can affect all of your senses, including your sense of smell and hearing.

Experiencing kaleidoscope vision can be scary. And while visual aura symptoms are usually not a major cause for concern, kaleidoscopic vision can signify something more serious. This is why you must talk to an eye doctor if you experience frequent or long-lasting visual migraines.

What Causes Kaleidoscope Vision?

There are a few causes of kaleidoscope vision. Typically, migraine headaches are at the root of visual disturbances like kaleidoscope vision.

Visual Migraines

There are different types of migraines, but a visual migraine usually causes kaleidoscope vision. Your brain’s nerve cells fire erratically, which can cause aches, pains, and some visual disruptions. This type of migraine usually passes in about 10 to 30 minutes.7

However, while visual migraines are often mistaken for retinal migraines, they are different. A retinal migraine happens in just one eye and causes you to see scintillations (or twinkling lights) and scotoma (or blind spots). 

Retinal Migraines

Retinal migraines can also cause temporary vision loss or peripheral vision loss. You will experience visual symptoms first, followed by a headache within the hour.4

If you have frequent migraines that cause visual irregularities, consult your eye specialist. Kaleidoscope vision — and migraines in general — can be a symptom of a more serious underlying health concern unrelated to an eye disease. For example, it could be an early symptom of a stroke, brain injury, or other neurological disorder.


Diabetes can cause kaleidoscope vision. Diabetes is a disease when your blood sugar, also known as your blood glucose, is too high.9

Kaleidoscope can be a complication of diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to experience migraine, especially when their blood sugar is high.

Signs & Symptoms of Kaleidoscope Vision

There are three types of visual auras you might experience with a migraine: 7

  1. Positive Visual Aura. This refers to what you see that is not really there (like stars or squiggly lines). These perceived images may seem to float around your visual field or change in size.
  2. Negative Visual Aura. This refers to partial or total vision loss during a migraine. It might mean losing your peripheral vision (tunnel vision), noticing blind spots, or totally blacking out.
  3. Altered Visual Aura. This refers to distorted images you may see. For example, a straight line might appear wavy. 

Kaleidoscopic vision is considered an altered visual aura.8

Here are some common signs and symptoms of kaleidoscope vision:

  • Fractured vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Visual distortions
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Seeing bright and/or shiny images
  • Severe headache
  • Other migraine symptoms

Not everyone who experiences kaleidoscope vision experiences headaches. It may take one hour for a headache to develop after noticing visual auras.7

Should I Be Worried About Kaleidoscope Vision?

While the visual symptoms of kaleidoscope vision can feel alarming, they may not be anything to worry about. You could just have an ocular migraine. About a quarter of people who get migraines experience visual disturbances.8

If you experience kaleidoscope vision regularly, notice a sudden change in your visual system, or are having extreme difficulty with visual processing, seek medical attention immediately. Kaleidoscope vision can be serious.

The condition may be linked to the following:

  • Visual dysfunction, such as binocular visual dysfunction (BVD)1
  • A symptom of a stroke, which can be fatal.
  • Multiple sclerosis.3

Migraines can also signify brain damage, especially if you experience extreme symptoms like temporary blindness and issues with your other senses. If you cover one eye and have no trouble seeing with the other, the issue is likely coming from the covered eye. 

If you do not notice a difference when you cover either eye, it could mean your brain is involved. 

Treatment Options for Kaleidoscope Vision 

Here are some ways you can fix kaleidoscope vision:

  • Eyeglasses. If you are experiencing an altered aura like kaleidoscope vision because of visual misalignment, wearing eyeglasses to correct your vision can help
  • Medications. You can also take some medications to help with ocular migraines. These may include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.
  • Treating an underlying condition. If your kaleidoscopic vision results from an underlying health concern like diabetes, seek medical attention. You will need to treat diabetes as the root of your vision problems.

How to Prevent Kaleidoscope Vision

You may be able to prevent kaleidoscope vision, depending on its cause. Preventative care for kaleidoscope vision includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising
  • Medication

Consult your doctor about your symptoms and whether or not preventative care is right for you. Though millions of Americans suffer from migraines that cause visual symptoms, only three to 13% are on preventative therapy. Meanwhile, an estimated 38% of them need preventive care.2


Kaleidoscope vision is a short-term distorted vision that causes visual images to look blurry. Migraines usually cause this condition since you may experience different visual auras with a migraine. While some cases of kaleidoscope vision is harmless, you must consult a doctor if your symptoms persist.

Updated on  February 16, 2023
9 sources cited
Updated on  February 16, 2023
  1. Feinberg DL, Rosner MS, Rosner AJ. “Validation of the Binocular Vision Dysfunction Questionnaire (BVDQ).”  Otol Neurotol, 2021.
  2. Estemalik E and Tepper S. “Preventive Treatment in Migraine and the New Us Guidelines.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Dove Medical Press, 2013.
  3. Kister, et al. “Migraine Is Comorbid with Multiple Sclerosis and Associated with a More Symptomatic Ms Course.” The Journal of Headache and Pain, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010.
  4. Retinal Migraine.” American Migraine Foundation, 2020.
  5. Russ. “Kaleidoscope Vision.” Optometrists.org, 2021.
  6. Schroeder BM. “AAFP/ACP-ASIM Release Guidelines on the Management and Prevention of Migraines.” American Family Physician, 2003.
  7. Transient Ischaemic Attacks: Mimics and Chameleons.” UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
  8. Visual Disturbances Related TO Migraine and Headache.” American Migraine Foundation, 2020.
  9. What Is Diabetes?” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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