Ask Dr Rosemary Leonard: ‘Is stress affecting my vision?’

A reader asks: I’ve had a few episodes recently when my vision has been really weird, as if I’m looking through a series of bright, blurry lights.

It lasts about half an hour and then my sight goes back to normal, although on a couple of occasions I’ve had a bit of a headache as well.

Should I get my blood pressure checked? I’m aware I’ve been a bit stressed recently as my mortgage payments have shot up, but otherwise I can’t think why this is happening.

Dr Rosemary Leonard replies: This could be a condition known as kaleidoscope vision, where the images you see are disjointed and brightly coloured as if you are looking through a kaleidoscope. It may occur in one or both eyes or on just one side of your vision, lasting usually between 10 to 30 minutes, although it can last up to an hour.

Occasionally, in older people, it can be a sign of an interruption to the blood supply to the brain (a mini stroke) and for this reason it is important that anyone having kaleidoscope vision is seen by a doctor. The most common cause is migraine, and although a headache may follow the visual changes, in some only the sight changes occur – a condition known as ocular migraine. The best way of tackling this is to try to prevent the attacks occurring. As with other forms of migraine, this is best done by keeping a diary to try to identify possible triggers, such as foods (chocolate and red wine are common culprits), stress or becoming overtired.

As most attacks of kaleidoscope vision are quite short there is usually little benefit in medication such as triptans used to lessen the symptoms of migraine headaches.

But if you have frequent attacks then preventative medicines such as beta or calcium channel blockers may be helpful.

If you have a health question for Dr Leonard, email her in confidence at She regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence or reply to everyone

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