I am not sure how many of you have experienced this but coming from a very hot region (South India), I have experienced this numerous times. Especially when I enter my home after spending long duration playing outside on a bright sunny day. I sort of hallucinate(for lack of better word) and see patterns of rings, bubbles and ellipses floating in front of me. I have to either rub my eyes a few times or wash my face to get rid of them!

Is there a specific word/phrase to describe this?

My search revealed psychedelic but I am not sure if that's the word I am looking for.

Having intense, vivid colours or a swirling abstract pattern

[ODO sense 1.2]

More details on the phenomenon I experience:

The patterns that I see are initially very bright because my pupils are still small. As time progresses, the brightness of the vivid patterns starts to fade. I see the patterns with my eyes open. Sometimes I also see them when I rub my eyes. The walls at my home are light, so yes light colored (I haven't been in a room that is dark colored {except for cinema halls, of course}). Not only on walls, I see them on empty spaces right in front of me as well. Yes, they throb and move. They don't change shapes but sizes(expand and contract). The patterns are random. The moment I enter my home, they are everywhere (all over my field of view). Gradually they are at different spots and they fade away. All this lasts for may be 4-5 seconds.

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    It would probably be much better to ask at Biology. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 5:49
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    @duskwuff has the correct answer: phosphenes. I taught a course on visual perception at the university level, and visual perception was the focus of my doctoral work. This question isn't a duplicate, and "floaters" is wrong. Even if this is a migraine or other heath issue, phosphenes are still the generally accepted term. In lay terms, there's a change in pressure on the eyeball, possibly in this case due to the rapid temperature change, or some secondary effect of the temperature change (maybe sinus pressure?).
    – jimm101
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 12:57
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    @BiscuitBoy because of the closing controversy, it would help if you gave more description to help differentiate. These patterns that you see, are they brighter or darker? Do you see them with your eyes closed? Do you see them better when you look at a light colored wall or a dark wall? Do they pulse or change shape or move? Are their shapes symmetrical or are they a bit squiggly or what? Do they cover your entire visual field or are they just a few spots here and there?
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 14:22
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    This is a different phenomenon than the one described in this question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/130724/….
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 14:26
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    @Mitch - I have composed a honest reply to all the pertinent questions that you have raised. Hope this makes it clear!
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


I'm not completely sure what you're describing, but what you're describing might be phosphenes. I'm also reminded somewhat of the aura that is sometimes experienced by people suffering from chronic migraines before an attack begins, although that term is rarely used outside that context.

"Psychedelic" is certainly a good word to describe them, though! Another word that might apply is "kaleidoscopic", comparing the images to what one might see in a kaleidoscope.

  • To be more specific, they are flick phosphenes: books.google.ca/…
    – ermanen
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 17:59
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    I think a short summary of what exactly phosphenes are, is in order here.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 18:34

There are three optical phenomena that fit your description. (Optical means that what you experience arises from the eye and not from the brain, as would be the case with psychedelic drugs)

  • Seeing an afterimage. An afterimage is a persistent image that you see after exposure to bright light that has overstimulated the retina. You can still "see" the afterimage even if you close your eyes.

  • Seeing floaters. Floaters are dots and swirls that appear to float across one's field of vision. These are either some cellular debris that have sloughed off the inside of the eyeball or they're discontinuities in the vitreous jelly, the clear substance that fills the eyeball.

  • Seeing flashes. This is caused either by the vitreous humor banging against the retina or by a retinal tear or detachment. If these are caused by a blow to the head, we say the victim is "seeing stars."

(Don't rub your eyes. It won't help.)

  • I don't think it's any of these. I believe blue flashes appear independent of whether you've been outside. In my experience you're more likely to notice floaters in bright light. And none of these look at all like the OP described (I've experienced all of them). Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 14:41
  • @PeterShor Perhaps you should take these comments to opthomology.stackexchange.com. I'm not making a diagnosis (Who said anything about blue? Not the OP.) This is about what people call things when they experience optical phenomena. It's impossible to say what the OP experienced without an examination, but going from a brightly-lit area to a dark one fits the first; rubbing one's eyes fits the third.
    – deadrat
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 20:44
  • At least two driveby downvoters, a plague on this site.
    – deadrat
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 20:44
  • @deadline: This may be about what people call optical phenomena, but, at least in my experience, the optical phenomena you listed bear very little resemblance to the ones the OP experiences. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 23:54
  • @PeterShor Ah, your experiences are the ones the OP experienced. Why didn't you say so? Shall I delete my answer now?
    – deadrat
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 0:25

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