If you're experiencing visual disturbances such as tiny flickering dots, static, or flashing lights in your visual field, you may be living with Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS). This condition can have a significant impact on your quality of life, causing symptoms such as light sensitivity, tinnitus, headaches, and dizziness.
For many individuals with VSS, visual disturbances can be constant and extremely distracting. They can make it difficult to read, work on a computer, drive, or perform other everyday tasks. Sensitivity to light can also make it a challenge to be in bright environments or in front of screens for long periods. The symptoms of VSS can often cause fatigue and emotional distress, leading to anxiety or depression.
Living with VSS can be frustrating and isolating, as many people are unaware of the condition and its impact. As a specialist in examining and treating VSS, I've seen first-hand the difference that the right treatment plan can make.
We'll take a closer look at the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for Visual Snow Syndrome. By the end, you'll have a better understanding of what you can do to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Ella is happier in herself in that finally someone has diagnosed and confirmed what she has being saying about the difficulties with her eyes and vision all along; and that there is a way forward in managing and strengthening her vision
L.A.S, Mum of Ella (age 10)
Symptoms of Visual Snow Syndrome
Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) is characterized by persistent visual disturbances, such as tiny flickering dots, static, or flashing lights, in the entire visual field. These visual symptoms can be continuous, intermittent, or triggered by certain visual stimuli. Some individuals with VSS may also experience other symptoms, including:
- Light sensitivity (photophobia): sensitivity to light that can cause discomfort and pain.
- Tinnitus: ringing in the ears or other sounds that have no external source.
- Headaches: frequent or severe headaches that can be migraines or tension headaches.
- Dizziness: a feeling of light-headedness or vertigo.
The symptoms of VSS can be highly variable from person to person. Some people may experience only mild visual snow, while others may have severe symptoms that significantly impact their daily life. The symptoms may also fluctuate over time, with some periods of remission and others of exacerbation.
The visual snow in VSS is often described as being similar to the static on a TV screen, but it can also manifest as other visual disturbances, such as flashes of light, swirling patterns, or afterimages. The visual symptoms can be distracting and often make it difficult to focus on everyday tasks, such as reading or working on a computer.
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to talk to a healthcare professional to rule out other potential underlying causes and receive appropriate care.
Diagnosis of Visual Snow Syndrome
Diagnosing Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) can be a complex process, as the condition shares some similarities with other eye and neurological disorders. To diagnose VSS, healthcare professionals will typically perform a comprehensive examination and assessment, which may include the following:
- Neurological Exam: A neurological exam can help to evaluate the health and function of the nervous system, including the brain. During the exam, a healthcare professional will check for any abnormalities in reflexes, muscle strength, and sensation.
- Imaging Tests: In some cases, imaging tests, such as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, may be used to rule out any structural abnormalities or neurological conditions that could be causing the symptoms.
- Behavioural Optometry Assessment: A comprehensive assessment can help to rule out any underlying eye conditions that may be contributing to visual disturbances. (see more below)
If these tests come back normal and no other underlying condition is identified, a diagnosis of VSS may be made based on the presence of the characteristic visual disturbances, along with other symptoms such as light sensitivity and tinnitus.
Because the diagnosis of VSS can be challenging, it's important to work with a healthcare professional who is familiar with the condition and can help you navigate the diagnosis process.
The Importance of Behavioural Optometry for Visual Snow Syndrome
Once physical causes have been ruled out by a neurologist and by scans, including an MRI, the next step is to undergo a Behavioural Optometry assessment to carefully assess visual skills, and visual function and try different treatment options.
An assessment consists of investigating:
- Stability and accuracy of eye movements
- Visual tracking
- Binocular vision (the coordination and stamina of how the eyes work together)
- Focusing mechanism of the eyes
- Peripheral vision and awareness
- Many elements of visual processing
- Hand-eye and body-eye coordination
- Other components of visual function
We have successfully assessed and treated many individuals with VSS to allow them to work and study more effectively by reducing their symptoms significantly.
Treatment Options for Visual Snow Syndrome
While there is no cure for Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS), there are a range of treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. The best treatment plan for VSS will depend on the severity of symptoms and individual factors such as age, health status, and personal preferences.
Some of the most used treatments for VSS include:
- Glasses with prisms: These lenses can help some individuals to have better eye movement control and binocular vision and can reduce the incidence of symptoms.
- Tinted Lenses: Tinted lenses can help reduce the sensitivity to light that many people with VSS experience. These lenses work by filtering out certain wavelengths of light, which can reduce the intensity of visual disturbances.
- Vision Therapy: Vision therapy is a type of physical therapy that aims to improve the way the eyes work together and how the brain processes visual information. This can help reduce visual symptoms and improve the overall visual comfort of the individual.
- Mesh and honeycomb filters: In some cases, these lenses can filter peripheral light sources and may help to reduce symptoms.
- Lifestyle Changes: Making lifestyle changes such as reducing screen time, minimizing exposure to bright lights, and getting regular exercise can also help manage the symptoms of VSS. These changes can help reduce eye strain and improve overall health, which can have a positive impact on the symptoms of VSS.
- Medications: Whilst outside of the scope of Behavioural Optometry and certain medications may be used to manage the symptoms of VSS, including anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) and benzodiazepines. These medications work by regulating the activity of the brain's neurons, which can help reduce the hyperexcitability that may be contributing to the symptoms. Medications are not for everyone, can have side effects and will require close monitoring by a neurologist who specialises in VSS.
It's important to work with a healthcare professional who is familiar with VSS to determine the best treatment plan for your individual needs. Treatment for VSS may require a combination of different approaches to manage the symptoms effectively. In some cases, it may take some trial and error to find the right combination of treatments that work for you.
In addition to these treatments, emotional and social support can also be important for individuals living with VSS. Talking to a counsellor, joining a support group, or connecting with others who have VSS can help provide a sense of understanding and community.
If you're experiencing symptoms of VSS, it's important to talk to a healthcare professional who is familiar with the condition and can help you find the right treatment plan.
Went to have a full visual assessment for 2-3 hours like no other. Mr Shah found I had an additional eye condition on top of Visual Snow (which was missed by many others), corrected my astigmatism perfectly and assigned me yellow lenses which has transformed day to day life for me. I am also about to partake in Vision Therapy which helps reduce symptoms too. Service and support i have received is great especially as i have a rare visual processing disorder.
Living with Visual Snow Syndrome
Living with Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) can be challenging, but there are a range of strategies that can help individuals cope with the condition and manage symptoms. Some of these strategies include:
Avoiding Triggers: Certain triggers, such as bright lights or specific visual patterns, can worsen the symptoms of VSS. By identifying and avoiding these triggers, individuals may be able to reduce the frequency and severity of visual disturbances.
Practising Good Eye Habits: Good eye habits, such as taking frequent breaks when working on a computer or reading, can help reduce eye strain and improve visual comfort. Eye exercises may also help improve the strength and coordination of the eyes, which can help reduce the symptoms of VSS.
Getting Adequate Rest: Adequate rest and sleep are important for overall health, but they can also have a positive impact on the symptoms of VSS. Getting enough rest can help reduce fatigue and improve the body's ability to manage stress.
Practising Stress Reduction Techniques: Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of VSS, so practising stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can be helpful. These techniques can help promote relaxation and reduce overall stress levels.
Seeking Emotional Support: Living with VSS can be isolating, and individuals may benefit from seeking emotional support from a counsellor, therapist, or support group. These resources can provide a sense of understanding and community for individuals with VSS.
While VSS can be a challenging condition to live with, individuals who take an active role in managing their symptoms can improve their overall quality of life. By working with a healthcare professional, developing a treatment plan, and implementing lifestyle changes and coping strategies, individuals with VSS can take steps to manage the symptoms and improve their visual comfort.
Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) is a complex condition that can be challenging to live with. The symptoms of VSS, including persistent visual disturbances, light sensitivity, tinnitus, headaches, and dizziness, can have a significant impact on an individual's quality of life.
However, there are a range of treatment options and coping strategies available that can help manage the symptoms and improve visual comfort. Tinted lenses, vision therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes can all be effective in managing the symptoms of VSS.
In addition to these treatments, emotional and social support can also help manage VSS. Talking to a counsellor, joining a support group, or connecting with others who have VSS can provide a sense of understanding and community.
If you are experiencing symptoms of VSS, it's important to talk to a healthcare professional who is familiar with the condition and can help you find the right treatment plan. With the right treatment and support, individuals with VSS can improve their quality of life and manage their symptoms effectively.
Living with VSS can be challenging, but it's important to remember that you are not alone. By taking an active role in managing your symptoms, seeking emotional and social support, and working with a healthcare professional, you can improve your overall well-being and live a fulfilling life.
We are here to help and support you on your journey towards better vision and visual comfort.