What is Kaleidoscope Vision?
Kaleidoscope vision refers to short-term distorted vision that causes a visual disturbance that makes images look blurry, broken up, and bright in color. Similar to 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 frightening.
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.
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, visual migraines are often mistaken for retinal migraines, but they're different. A retinal migraine happens in just one eye and causes you to see scintillations (or twinkling lights) and scotomas (or blind spots).
A retinal migraine is a migraine with aura characterized by 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, or 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 migraine: 7
- Positive Visual Aura: Refers to a phenomenon where you perceive images that aren't there, like stars or squiggly lines; these images may float around in your visual field or change sizes
- Negative Visual Aura: Partial or total loss of vision during a migraine; you may lose your peripheral vision (tunnel vision), notice blind spots, or blackout
- Altered Visual Aura: Seeing distorted images like a straight line appearing 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.5
- 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 out 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.
When to Seek Help for Kaleidoscope Vision
Because kaleidoscope vision can signify a more serious medical condition, it's important to know when to call for help. Contact a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:
- Frequent episodes of kaleidoscope vision
- Eye pain
- Vision loss or blind spots in your vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe headache
Contact a medical professional immediately if you're experiencing arm weakness, facial numbness, and slurred words. You may be having a stroke.
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
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 are harmless, it can signify a more serious condition. Consult your doctor if symptoms persist.
Fortunately, there are ways to treat kaleidoscope vision. You can also prevent it by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and taking medication.
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