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Visual Snow Syndrome

Facts About the Condition


Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS), also known as Visual Snow (VS), is a neurological condition that has devastating effects on an individual’s vision, hearing, and cognitive functioning. Once thought to be rare, it is now estimated that 2-3% of the world’s population has symptoms of the condition. People from around the world of all ages and walks of life are and can be affected by it. Most often, the condition causes people to process visual information abnormally, making normal life more difficult for them. Patients see flashing lights, flickering dots, and static, all of which obstruct their visual field 24/7. There is no relief for them, even when their eyes are closed. What differentiates Visual Snow symptoms from other fleeting phenomena is that they are constant, not temporary, meaning that they do not go away on their own. The condition also has an array of non-visual symptoms (see below for more details).

The exact cause of Visual Snow is still unknown. However, research indicates there is a probable connection between hyperactivity in the visual cortex of the brain and the origin of this syndrome. Moreover, it is a neurological (brain-related) condition, not ophthalmological (related to the eyes). Visual Snow is a brain-processing issue that affects an individual’s eyesight, but it is unrelated to the structural integrity of the eyes. 

VSS is known for its hallmark symptom of “static” throughout the entire field of vision. But everyone’s “static” is different. Symptoms can range from mild to extraordinarily life-altering depending on the person.

The diagnosis of Visual Snow Syndrome is typically difficult because although it affects the eyes, ophthalmologic/optometric examinations typically yield “normal” results. Visual Snow is not a disease (a health issue of a known origin as determined through medical testing). Rather, Visual Snow is a syndrome (multiple symptoms of unknown origin & medical tests nearly always come back “normal”). Neuro-ophthalmologists are typically more equipped to address this condition.

CLICK HERE to view the Diagnostic Criteria (to share with your doctor, etc.), as well a more comprehensive list of visual symptoms.

Visual Symptoms

  • Snow-like dots all over the field of vision
  • Small floating objects or flashes of light
  • Sensitivity to light (Photophobia)
  • Continuing to see an image after it is no longer in the field of vision (Palinopsia)
  • Seeing images within the eye itself (Entoptic phenomena)
  • Other visual effects such as starbursts, halos, and double vision (Diplopia)

Non-Visual Symptoms

  • Ringing, humming, or buzzing sounds (Tinnitus)
  • Feeling detached from yourself (Depersonalization)
  • Symptoms of anxiety and/or depression can sometimes develop as a result of having to deal with a constant medical condition like Visual Snow Syndrome
  • Muscular pain/headaches

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