History of Visual Snow Syndrome

> History of Visual Snow Syndrome

Old Problem, New Understanding

From Uncertainty to Progress and Hope

Historically, it has been challenging for people with Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) to receive an accurate diagnosis. Due to its visual symptoms, many people with VSS and their physicians thought their eyes were the origin of the problem. But when referred to optometrists and ophthalmologists (eye doctors), who would test for abnormalities, their results typically came back “normal”. That is because VSS is a sensory processing disorder that affects vision and originates in the brain, not the eyes.

Visual snow/static was first reported in the Transactions of the American Ophthalmological Society in 1944. Frank D. Carroll published descriptions of 6 patients experiencing visual disturbances induced by digitalis, a medication for heart ailments. These included “snowy vision, flashing and flickering lights, flowerlike figures, green and yellow vision, and colored floaters”. All 6 patients underwent ophthalmic (eye) examinations, and findings were negative. Carroll surmised that digitalis impaired the central nervous system, stimulating the cerebrum to cause visual hallucinations and colored vision.

Today, there are various types of physicians and specialists equipped to address VSS, including neuro-ophthalmologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, neuro-optometrists, and vision therapists who are trained in the management/treatment of VSS symptoms. But previously, VSS struggled to gain clinical acceptance.

Until recently, the legitimacy of the condition was met with doubt and marginalization. Physicians were never taught about VSS in medical school. Most of them had never heard of VSS. Among those who had, some rejected its validity. They assumed that VSS was simply a form of migraine aura (despite VSS patients also experiencing other debilitating visual and non-visual symptoms that were not consistent with migraine aura).

Other physicians insisted that VSS was not a “real” medical condition, falsely attributing patient reports of VSS symptoms to a psychiatric/psychological disease. This now scientifically-disproven illogical, primitive notion caused tremendous harm to the wellbeing of those with VSS and their loved ones who were seeking help. The debilitating nature of VSS symptoms coupled with the medical community’s historic marginalization, misdiagnosis, and mistreatment of VSS patients can have a profoundly negative and devastating impact on their mental health.

There were also informed physicians who knew that VSS was a legitimate, distinct neurological condition and wanted to help their patients. But without funding for further research, awareness, education, and treatment options, solutions for VSS would not be possible.

Today, thanks to establishment of clinical criteria, global awareness, education, and research, VSS is now scientifically-recognized as a legitimate, distinct neurological disorder (with both visual and non-visual symptoms). Frequency of misdiagnosis is reducing. There is active, global research for VSS funded by the Visual Snow Initiative (VSI) that is taking place in several countries, which is revealing new information regarding the pathophysiology, biological basis, and treatment of VSS symptoms. For the first time ever, diagnostic tools, a global directory of VSS physicians, physician-patient resources, as well as noninvasive and viable treatment options are available.

Together, we are making significant progress.

Please see the sections below for more information.

Facts and Legitimacy

The Progress

VSS: At a Glance

Challenges with Diagnosing VSS

Advancements and Milestones

Be Part of the Solution

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