All You Need to Know About Visual Snow Syndrome

Are you experiencing vision that appears to have dots or snow, making it hard to see properly? You may have visual snow syndrome.

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What is Visual Snow Syndrome?

Visual snow syndrome is one of the most misunderstood visual conditions that is out there. In this article, we will delve into its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. We will learn how this condition makes people see static on everything that they look at and how it can be severe enough to impede their daily activities such as reading, driving, and functioning. We will also find out the cause of the condition and the different symptoms that come with it. Lastly, we will explore the available treatments and vision correction options that may help manage visual snow syndrome.

Visual snow syndrome is a visual condition where people do not see clearly. Instead, they see a lot of little speckled dots on everything that they look at. It kind of reminds you of the static that you'd see on an old television set that wasn't getting good reception. Visual snow syndrome is also known as just Visual Snow or denoted as VS. When someone sees this visual snow, they see this static all the time, from the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they go to bed at night.

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Symptoms of Visual Snow Syndrome

Some people with visual snow syndrome can tune it out and ignore it to a minimal degree, while others may experience severe symptoms that interfere with their daily activities and quality of life. 

Some of the common symptoms of visual snow syndrome include: 

  • Visual Snow: The most common symptom of visual snow syndrome is the presence of tiny flickering dots, static, or snow-like visual disturbances in the person's vision. These visual disturbances are often described as being similar to the static seen on a television screen or the static-like noise heard on a radio. The snow can be present in one or both eyes and may be more noticeable in certain lighting conditions.
  • Nyctalopia: Also known as night blindness, Nyctalopia is a difficulty in seeing at nighttime or in low light conditions. This can be especially problematic for individuals with visual snow syndrome, as it can exacerbate their other visual symptoms.
  • Photophobia: Photophobia is a condition where a person experiences extreme sensitivity to light, which can cause discomfort or pain in bright environments. In individuals with visual snow syndrome, photophobia can be triggered by any type of light source, including sunlight, computer screens, and fluorescent lights.
  • Palinopsia: Palinopsia is the persistent perception of afterimages or visual trails. This means that an individual with visual snow syndrome may see an image or object even after it has been removed from their field of vision. Palinopsia can make it difficult to focus on objects or movements, and can also cause disorientation.

Non visual symptoms of visual snow syndrome include: 

  • 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 the body
Causes of Visual Snow Syndrome

Causes of Visual Snow Syndrome

The exact cause of visual snow syndrome is not yet fully understood, and research on the topic is ongoing. However, there are several factors that may contribute to the development of the condition. Some potential causes of visual snow syndrome include:

  • Abnormalities in the visual cortex: The visual snow and other visual disturbances experienced by people with visual snow syndrome are thought to be caused by abnormalities in the visual cortex, the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information.
  • Migraine headaches: Migraines are a common comorbidity with visual snow syndrome, and research suggests that they may be a contributing factor to the development of the condition.
  • Traumatic brain injury: Individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may be at higher risk for developing visual snow syndrome, possibly due to damage to the visual cortex.
  • Substance use: Certain substances, such as hallucinogenic drugs, have been associated with the development of visual snow syndrome.
  • Autoimmune disorders: Some autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, have been linked to visual disturbances that may resemble those seen in visual snow syndrome.
  • Infections: In some cases, infections such as Lyme disease or Epstein-Barr virus have been associated with the onset of visual snow syndrome.


It is important to note that the causes of visual snow syndrome are still being studied and not yet fully understood. More research is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms that contribute to the development of the condition.

How a Neuro-Optometrist Can Help Manage Visual Snow Syndrome

How a Neuro-Optometrist Can Help Manage Visual Snow Syndrome

Neuro-optometrists can play a significant role in the management and treatment of visual snow syndrome. The main goal of treatment for visual snow syndrome is to alleviate the symptoms and improve quality of life. A neuro-optometrist can help achieve this goal by providing the following treatments:

  • Vision therapy and visual snow -Vision therapy aims to enhance basic visual skills, based on the principle that targeted exercises can strengthen the eye-brain connection, improve visual efficiency, and even change how the brain interprets visual information. These exercises might indirectly help manage some symptoms of Visual Snow by improving overall visual function, although it is not a cure for the underlying neurological issue. Neuro-optometric rehabilitation integrates vision therapy into a broader, multidisciplinary approach that includes occupational therapy, neurology, and other specialties. It operates under the premise that many visual disorders, including those resulting from neurological conditions like Visual Snow Syndrome, are not just isolated in the visual system but are related to how the brain processes information from other senses too. This holistic treatment aims to recalibrate the disrupted neural networks involved in vision and other sensory modalities.
  • Prism lenses - Prism lenses can help reduce the visual disturbances associated with visual snow syndrome, such as double vision or halos around objects. These lenses bend light as it passes through, which can help align the images from each eye and reduce visual confusion.
  • Tinted lenses for visual snow - Tinted lenses can reduce the brightness of visual snow, making it less distracting for the patient. The specific color and density of the tint will depend on the patient's individual symptoms and preferences. Some patients find relief with a light amber or yellow tint, while others prefer a darker blue or green tint.
  • Low vision devices for visual snow syndrome - For patients with significant vision loss, low vision aids such as digital CCTV in handheld or desktop can be used to manage contrast, and even training on how to best use a phone’s features can make a big improvement. While therapies such as perceptual therapy increase functional vision and improve contrast. Often prism and tint lenses are also a great option.
  • Medications - In some cases, medications such as anticonvulsants or antidepressants may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms. Anticonvulsants such as topiramate or lamotrigine can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines, which can be a common symptom of visual snow syndrome. Antidepressants such as amitriptyline or venlafaxine can help alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms that may be associated with visual snow syndrome.

In addition to these treatments, our neuro-optometrists may also recommend other lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms, such as reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, reducing high visually demanding tasks, and managing stress levels. It's important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating visual snow syndrome, and each patient's treatment plan will be customized to their specific symptoms and needs.

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Who is at Risk for Visual Snow Syndrome?

Who is at Risk for Visual Snow Syndrome?

Visual snow syndrome is a relatively rare neurological condition that isn't completely understood yet. While it can affect anyone, there are some groups and factors that appear to increase the risk:

  • Young Adults: The condition often manifests in young adulthood but can occur at any age.
  • Both Genders Affected: Visual Snow Syndrome doesn't appear to prefer one gender over another. Both males and females can be affected.
  • Migraines: People who suffer from migraines may have a higher likelihood of experiencing Visual Snow Syndrome.
  • Anxiety and Depression: While not direct causes, anxiety and depression have been reported more commonly among those with this condition.
  • Limited Data: There's limited information on whether the condition runs in families, but some anecdotal evidence suggests a possible genetic link.
  • Unknown: There is no definitive proof that environmental factors like screen time or lifestyle choices contribute to the condition.

It's important to remember that having one or more of these risk factors doesn't mean you'll definitely develop visual snow syndrome. Similarly, not having any risk factors doesn't mean you won't get it.

Because this is an area of ongoing research, risk factors may be updated as new studies are conducted. If you experience symptoms similar to visual snow syndrome, like persistent visual "static" or other visual disturbances, it's crucial to consult with an eye care professional for a thorough evaluation.

How is Visual Snow Syndrome Diagnosed?

Diagnosing visual snow syndrome is a multi-step process that aims to rule out other conditions and confirm the presence of this rare neurological disorder. The process starts with a detailed medical interview where your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and how they impact your daily life. A comprehensive eye exam is usually the next step to rule out eye-specific issues. Even though the syndrome is neurological, it's essential to confirm that your eyes are healthy.

Further assessments may include standard neurological tests to evaluate nerve function and motor and sensory skills. Imaging studies like MRI or CT scans may also be conducted, although they often appear normal in Visual Snow Syndrome patients. In some cases, additional tests like electroencephalogram (EEG) or visual evoked potentials (VEP) may be recommended.

The diagnosis may also require consultation with a neuro-ophthalmologist, a specialist in both neurological and eye disorders. A set of diagnostic criteria, such as the persistence of symptoms for at least three months, is often used to confirm the diagnosis.

If you suspect you have visual snow syndrome, it's crucial to consult an eye doctor for a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate diagnostic tests.

Causes of Visual Snow Syndrome
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Common Questions

Visual snow syndrome's exact cause remains unknown, but it seems to involve complex interactions in the brain's processing of visual information. It is not triggered by a specific event or factor and may be related to hyperexcitability in the visual cortex. Neuro optometry is often involved in diagnosing and managing these cases.
Some individuals with visual snow syndrome may experience a decrease in symptoms over time, but it often persists. It's essential to consult with an eye specialist to discuss management strategies.
While visual snow syndrome is not life-threatening, it can significantly impact an individual's quality of life due to persistent visual disturbances. An eye doctor can provide tools to manage symptoms.
There's no evidence that visual snow syndrome leads to complete blindness, but it can cause continuous visual disturbances that may interfere with daily activities.
All You Need to Know About Visual Snow Syndrome
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Visual Snow Syndrome: Don't Let it Affect Your Quality of Life - Schedule an Appointment Today

Are you experiencing persistent visual disturbances like seeing static or flickering lights? You might be suffering from visual snow syndrome. Don't let it go undiagnosed and affect your quality of life. Schedule an appointment with our neuro optometrist today to get the help and relief you need. Contact your eye doctor to schedule an neuro optometric exam for visual snow syndrome.

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