Visual snow is a very rare and mysterious condition hotly debated by experts. Split into two sides, some claim that this condition isn’t real, while others say that it is and needs attention.
It is a very real condition that deeply affects those who suffer from it. The exact number of people who suffer from it is not known, but more people than you’d think are affected. There are endless stories online of people suffering from visual snow and their experiences with the rare condition.
The purpose of this article today is to lend an ear to these stories and to bring to light the effects of this very real issue. The doctors may not listen, but we will.
Living with Visual Snow
To quickly recap, in case you missed our last article about it, visual snow is a chronic condition that affects your vision. People with visual snow say it always looks as if it were snowing. It’s like watching television on an old bunny-eared TV set where the signal isn’t coming through. Often, sufferers claim that they’ve seen this way for as long as they can remember
The Struggle to Be Believed
As if living with something that is completely unexplainable by doctors and eye health experts wasn’t hard enough, visual snow is also often denied as being a real vision disorder.
The cause is completely unknown. Those who experience it often have “normal” eyes. By normal we mean that nothing seems obviously wrong with their eyes. A person with visual snow will have properly functioning eyes with no abnormalities present.
This leads to a lot of doubt among experts. In the case of Vince, who shared his struggle on his website, he had never taken so many tests and so prescriptions in his life. Doctors chalked his symptoms up to mental health issues. It wasn’t until he found a community of other sufferers that he learned exactly what was going in with his vision.
Because of the skepticism and disbelief that visual snow is real, many of those suffering from it do not come forward. They don’t feel safe or feel as if they deserve the care they so obviously deserve. Often sufferers will be told that there simply isn’t anything that can be done for them.
A Condition of the Brain
The reason so many doctors are hesitant to validate this condition is because so much about it is unknown. They think it may have to do more with the brain than the eye. Brain scans of people with visual snow have shown abnormal activity in the regions of the brain that control the eyes.
Researchers are in the early stages of figuring out what is causing visual snow, but recent studies have shown that the “snow” is worsened during times of stress, fatigue and migraines; all things that are directly related to brain function.
What exactly causes this region of the brain to be different than normal is still unknown, but research is constantly underway. Although the exact cause is not known, some experts believe there may be a link between visual snow and migraines. However, we know now that visual snow isn’t exclusively related to migraines and aura. A study published in the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology proved that although 60 percent of sufferers also suffer from migraines, that isn’t always the case. The remaining 40 percent experience symptoms of visual snow without the aura or pain of a migraine. We know that that both conditions are independent of each other and need individual treatment. Finding out which treatment is best requires more research and testing.
Symptoms and Triggers
Living with visual snow can be tough at times. Though it has not proven to be dangerous to one’s eye health, it is known to hold people back.
Those with moderate visual snow, where the snow isn’t so distracting, say that it’s more of an inconvenience or annoyance. But for others who have a more severe case, the condition can get in the way of reading, going to events, watching TV, and much more.
Visual snow does not affect everyone in the same way. While some have had to quit school because reading with the constant snow was too much, others have learned to cope and have gone on to complete high levels of education.
Most sufferers can however agree on one thing: contrasting lights are the devil. Computer screens, strobe lights, bright lights are all things that can cause uncomfortable flashes in their vision and cause light to dance around. Uncomfortable and uncontrollable, many people with visual snow have to be very careful about lighting.
Night vision in most with visual snow is severely worse than those without the condition. Going out at night or driving at night is a great challenge.
Coping with Visual Snow
Unfortunately, many people have not learned to cope with this vision problem. Some have found that certain things set off the flashing lights and have learned to avoid them. But others haven’t been so lucky. There is no surefire way to cope with the condition. At this stage, it’s a lot of trial and error.
However, human trials are underway to find ways that can help people cope with visual snow. One way that many people are beginning to treat the condition is by using yellow-tinted lenses. In a study with 12 participants, all reported that their symptoms were more tolerable when wearing the lenses.
This has paved the way towards making special tinted lenses for visual snow. The lenses can allow people to freely enjoy the activities they love and may even decrease the number of school drop outs.
Experts advise those who suffer from the condition to talk to their doctors (or preferably one who knows and believes in the realness of this condition) and find a personalized way to cope with it.
It isn’t an ideal solution, but it seems to be the only solution available right now. Which to be honest, is better than nothing, which is where we were a few years ago.
Visual snow has brought many people together on social media. Hopefully banding together will make experts listen and find a cure for this truly mysterious vision problem.