Visual Snow Syndrome
Facts About the Condition
Comprised of many visual and non-visual symptoms, Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) is a neurological disorder 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 Earth’s population has symptoms of the condition. People from around the world of all ages and walks of life can be and are affected by it daily. People with VSS can experience symptoms from birth or experience spontaneous onset of VSS at a later point in life, which means their VSS symptoms develop “randomly” or seemingly “out of nowhere”.
This neurological disorder impacts sensory-processing, which causes people to process visual information abnormally and often makes everyday life more difficult for them. The hallmark symptom of VSS is seeing static, or flashing lights and flickering dots, that obstruct the visual field 24/7, whether one’s eyes are open or closed. What differentiates VSS 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 debilitating non-visual symptoms (see below for more details). Everyone with Visual Snow Syndrome sees static 24/7, however they may experience all or only some of its other potential symptoms on top of this.
The exact cause of Visual Snow Syndrome 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 disorder. Moreover, it is a neurological (brain-related) condition, not ophthalmological (related to the eyes). Visual Snow Syndrome 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”).
Additionally, there is a difference between Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) and Visual Snow (VS). Visual Snow, or VS, refers to seeing static, or flashing lights and flickering dots, throughout the entire field of vision. This symptom occurs 24/7, whether one’s eyes are open or closed. Seeing VS/static is the hallmark symptom of the neurological condition, Visual Snow Syndrome, or VSS. As mentioned, the syndrome itself, VSS, entails additional visual and non-visual symptoms.
Having Visual Snow Syndrome can be different experience for everyone and symptoms range from mild to extraordinarily life-altering depending on the person.
The diagnosis of Visual Snow Syndrome is typically difficult because although it affects one’s vision, ophthalmologic and optometric examinations typically yield “normal” results. Visual Snow Syndrome is a brain-processing issue that affects an individual’s eyesight (and other bodily processes), but it is unrelated to the structural integrity of the eyes. Neuro-ophthalmologists and neurologists are best equipped to address this brain condition.
Click here to view the Diagnostic Criteria for Visual Snow Syndrome (to share with your doctor, etc.), as well as a more comprehensive list of symptoms.
To learn more about VSS and how/why it can affect each person differently, please visit the following page: Helping Yourself and Others Understand Your VSS
- 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)
- Ringing, humming, or buzzing sounds (Tinnitus)
- Feeling detached from yourself (Depersonalization)
- Symptoms of anxiety and/or depression
- Frequent migraines, brain fog, and confusion
- Dizziness and nausea
- Insomnia and other sleep-related issues
- Tingling sensations in legs and arms, accompanied by general pain throughout body