What Causes Visual Snow?
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If you can remember back to the days where TVs sometimes had static, that is similar to what people with the rare disorder visual snow see all the time. The flickering tiny snow-like dots are constant for visual snow sufferers. The disease is underrecognized and is often confused with eye disorders but researchers say it is actually caused by a neurological condition in the brain. Cells in the brain may be overly responsive to visual stimuli causing extreme sensitivity to light and impaired night vision.
The Doctors are joined by Sierra, who has visual snow, and her neurologist, Dr. Peter Goadsby. Sierra says she first realized something was wrong when she was in college and saw the snow-like static while looking at her professor at the board. She got her eyes tested but her results came back normal, which left her baffled. She did her own research online where she learned about visual snow and then found Dr. Goadsby, who formally diagnosed her.
Dr. Goadsby explains by looking at functional imaging of the brain, you can see the part of the brain involved with vision is overly active in people that have visual snow, compared with those who don't. A third of the people who have the disorder have had it for as long as they can remember, so to them, they think it is normal, and may not ever mention it! This disease is both difficult to diagnose and just how rare it is, is unknown, because the condition is so underrecognized.
Sierra shares that unfortunately there is no cure for visual snow, so she is suffering just as much today as when she first discovered it. However, Sierra is working to change her outlook and has decided to be an advocate for herself and others who have this condition. She started the charity Visual Snow Initiative; click here to learn more about the work she is doing. To learn more about visual snow, click here.