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Posted in: Diseases, Conditions, SyndromesEye HealthFeaturedNeuroscienceQT Exclusive

The Mysterious Maze Of Kaleidoscopic Vision

Kaleidoscopic vision

Source: Pixabay

The condition is known in medical terminology as Kaleidoscopic Vision.

The individual experiencing this complex phenomenon, often complains that there are shimmering or flashing lights, zigzagging hazy lines or stars, and black spots which may also be vividly colored, are seen by him, especially in the corners of the eyes. The individual feels disconcerted, stressed, and ill at ease. The capacity to see is mildly and temporarily compromised but not fully obliterated.

This form of migraine experience is what we call an aura. An aura is a reversible neurologic and commonly a visual symptom associated with a migraine. Most commonly this is a visual symptom. Auras develop slowly and last between five minutes and one hour. Auras typically occur before the headache starts.

It is hence, interesting to gain some insights into this curious bodily occurrence and its connection to overall wellness and health.

Research findings of the Migraine Research Foundation have shown that nearly 25% of families in the United States have at least one family member who gets migraines. More significantly, Kaleidoscopic vision is a precursor for a migraine attack.

Scientists are undivided that Kaleidoscopic vision is merely a facet of a multipronged physiological condition and must be treated as such.

Lisa Lystad, M.D., an ophthalmologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio puts it down to changes in the speed and direction of neural impulses. Significantly, she notes that the types, forms, and hues of kaleidoscope vision are always identical for a particular individual, though they differ from one person to another.

Most medical practitioners recognize that the condition disappears with the onset of migraine pain. They advise that the patient with migraine recognize Kaleidoscopic vision as a warning sign and adopts a preventive approach to migraine. If they occur frequently doctors may prescribe medicines to reduce symptoms.  Aromatherapy is also found to be beneficial.

The symptoms of migraines and strokes may present themselves in the same way. A Doctor’s consultation is recommended as such.

How is Kaleidoscope vision treated?

Kaleidoscope vision is usually not an illness or disease by itself but, rather, a symptom of an underlying problem.

Medications prescribed by doctors such as migraine treatments and therapies are often the best way to deal with kaleidoscope vision. Finding out what set your migraine in motion is very important.

Many people maintain a record of the events that took place just before experiencing a Kaleidoscopic vision and document it. It is important to work on avoiding triggers such as:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Cigarette smoke and/or tobacco products
  • Dehydration
  • Fluctuations in hormone levels
  • Light sources, such as fluorescent and flickering lights
  • Loud or startling noises
  • Powerful scents from perfumes, chemicals, gasoline, etc.
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Extreme heat, storms, and other weather changes

How do you know that the visual symptoms are not due to migraine?

The typical symptoms of a visual migraine are “positive,” meaning that there is something shimmering or sparkling that is disrupting the vision. Migraines are less likely to cause “negative” symptoms of pure visual darkness. An episode of visual darkness typically requires additional evaluation for other conditions, including a “mini-stroke” (a TIA, or transient ischemic attack).

One may wonder if it is possible to get the experience of Kaleidoscopic vision without pain or even a headache. The answer is Yes, some individuals only experience visual symptoms without headaches. Such a condition is known as Ocular migraine and it is connected to impaired vision presentation. Some relief has been reported with the use of magnesium oxide supplements.

According to the American Migraine Foundation,  it is sometimes hard to determine whether one’s symptoms are actually migraine-related, or not. Sometimes they may happen due to a more serious problem that needs urgent medical attention. Some of the causes for concern include:

  • If new dark spots or floaters in one eye appear and they don’t go away, they could be symptoms of a retinal or vitreous detachment. These symptoms require urgent evaluation by an ophthalmologist.
  • New flashes of light only in one eye that don’t go away within an hour may also be symptoms of a retinal or vitreous detachment.
  • If the patient has episodes of transient loss of vision in one eye, it may be the warning sign of a stroke or inflammation of the arteries. Such episodes usually last less than half four and usually are not associated with a headache. Such episodes are concerning if they begin after age 45. While it is common for migraine to cause the same symptoms, it’s best to see an ophthalmologist, neuro-ophthalmologist, or neurologist if this occurs.
  • Patients who experience loss of one side of the visual field or episodes of complete blindness without headache may be symptoms of a stroke or mini-stroke. There could be other neurological symptoms that are present, such as dizziness, imbalance, weakness, numbness, or double vision. The symptoms often begin suddenly and simultaneously. There may or may not be an associated headache.
  • When the pattern of migraine visual symptoms changes dramatically or increases in duration, it’s best to see an ophthalmologist, neuro-ophthalmologist, or neurologist for a complete evaluation.

Causes of Ocular Migraines

The causes of Ocular Migraine are still mystifying. Retinal migraines could be attributed to other causative factors like excessive physical output, dehydration, hormonal changes, low glycemic index, hypertension, abject use of abusive substances, and tobacco.

Ocular migraine sometimes is a synonym for “retinal migraine.” A retinal migraine is a rare condition occurring in a person who has experienced other symptoms of migraine. Here, the patient reports transient losses of vision and it affects any one eye, not both. This requires prompt medical intervention.

If one has to attempt an organized classification of Ocular migraine then a simple and lucid categorization is available based on the nature, causes, and presentation of this visual anomaly are as follows:

Visual aura as this condition is also called, may be of three categories:

Positive Visual Aura. This condition is characterized by the visual experience of delusionary images (seeing something that isn’t really there) including zig-zag lines which often shimmer (in color, or black/silver) and may move across the field of vision, sparkles, dots, stars, spots, squiggles, and “flashbulb” effects.) and sharpshooting pangs of a pain sensation. The nature of these images is both fluid and short-lived.

Negative Visual Aura. Here the patient suffers from a loss of vision which may either be partial or complete in nature. A series of “blind spots are observed and they erratically appear and disappear. There is a sense of intense mental trauma in the subject experiencing this Visual aura. Special dietary inclusion of selenium, magnesium, and potassium, Vitamin A by way of food shows a remarkable improvement in this condition.

Altered Visual Aura. As the name suggests, this aura is characterized by changes in the clarity, shape, and size of images at large. The patient sometimes feels that the lenses of his spectacles need to be changed, due to this experience!

During the in-depth studies about this puzzling biochemical phenomenon, a few interesting connections have been unearthed. They are co-relationships with ischemic episodes and Diabetes Mellitus. A condition known as TIA which is an acronym for Transient Ischemic Attack or stroke is observed in some patients immediately after they experience Kaleidoscopic vision. This is attributed to erratic vascularity in the brain.

In subjects who habitually suffer from hyperglycemia and edema of the retinal and corneal regions of the eye, Ocular migraine seems to prevail. In these individuals, the episodes last between fifteen minutes and half an hour. Recurrence of episodes is, however, a grave concern. There are some myths about the connection between kaleidoscopic vision and exercise, anxiety and stress, or even multiple sclerosis. Scientific evidence does not support these interlinks.

The general trend in patients who experience Kaleidoscopic vision is a kind of loss of morale, stress, and a nagging worry about what steps to take to safeguard wellbeing. There is a requirement for detailed patient counseling by the learned medical practitioner. Some easy-to-implement and truly effective pointers for lifestyle interventions are a great idea for summating my article.

A disciplined lifestyle that includes moderate physical activity, mental engagement in hobbies, and a balanced diet, top the list!!! This certainly addresses two aspects of the condition convincingly. The first is a generation of a “feel-good factor” and the second is that the dietary practices which are complete with micronutrients are really supportive of well-being.

Typically, scintillating scotomas do not require any medical intervention. Mental calmness and deep breathing have been beneficial in most cases especially when the patient lies supine for a while. Generally, in most cases, the blind spot decimates on its own in about forty minutes. A quantum relief from mild symptoms of scotomas is based on habitual short naps, lying down with closed eyes, and rehydration.

All in all, there is a requirement to understand kaleidoscopic vision in a more complete manner…indeed, there are many more hues to it

The authors acknowledge the use of authentic medical literature from reputed media to structure this article.

Jyoti D Vora

MSc., PhD, F.S.Sc. , MASFFBC, CME (USA), Net Cleared, Certified Functional Foods Scientist, (FFC, USA), Proprietor and CEO, Dhirang Consultants, Mumbai.

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