visual snow

Let's Talk About Visual Snow

Categories: Lyme Disease, Anxiety

In today's blog I want to highlight another strange and disorienting symptom that Lymies (as well as migraine sufferers) can experience - Visual Snow. Visual Snow (VS) is characterized by seeing tiny black and white dots in one's field of vision much like a television set with bad reception.  For some this is clearly brought on by an illness or trauma.  For others, the cause is unknown.  Researchers have yet to fully understand the actual workings of visual snow and as of yet there is technically no "cure," However some people do report the experience going away. 

What Is Visual Snow? 

The clinical term for VS is aeropsia which translates loosely to "seeing the air" in Greek.  There are two types of visual snow: Pulse Type (resembling rain drops on a car window) and Broadband (fuzzy like an old broken television).  It appears that visual snow is also related to some other health condition like migraines and Multiple Sclerosis.  While researchers are unaware of the exact cause, they believe it has to do with a communication error between two parts of the brain - The Thalamus and the Cortex.  


Common comorbid conditions to VS include:

  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Lyme disease
  • Auto Immune disease

Because doctors aren't exactly sure what causes visual snow,  it is both difficult to get a diagnosis and find any sort of relief. Often, the management of our reactions to experiences are far worse than the actual symptoms themselves. Much like chronic pain, chronic VS is a symptom most of us would rather not have.  And while there are those that profess to love and embrace their visual snow, that's not always so easy (or something we want).

When the experience of VS gets so overwhelming that it is impacting other areas of our lives, we might need to step back and find support.  Like chronic pain, there is so much that can be done in a therapy setting to relive frustration, anxiety and overwhelm that comes with managing multiple symptoms of chronic disease.

Some ways we begin to address overwhelm and frustration associated with visual snow include reframing, narrative therapy, relationship work and mindfulness practices.

Reframing is the backbone of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT teaches us to slow our thoughts and begin to sort the rational from the irrational.  It allows us to identify patterns of thinking and feeling that no longer serve us.  Once we have found them, we can work to change the thoughts.  Reframing is simply the practice of thinking different thoughts.

Narrative Therapy takes a look at the stories we tell ourselves.  It examines the stories that shape our personalities and experiences.  Sometimes, through life experience we relive stories we would rather not have.  Narrative helps us write a different story for our lives.  What type of story are you telling yourself about your Visual Snow?

Relationship Focused Therapies When we think of relationship we often think of our interactions with others.  But there is another way of using relationships in the therapy office.  In this context, we can take a look at our relationships with everything from physical objects to our bodies to symptoms and disease.  A large part of my healing process was healing my relationship with Lyme disease, not to view it as an enemy, but rather something that was there to teach me something about myself.  What is your relationship to your VS? 

Mindfulness Practices Mindfulness Based CBT can be of benefit when we find ourselves feeling intense anxiety and overwhelm in our current situation. By practicing breathing, stillness and focus, symptoms of anxiety diminish over time.  

These are just a few of the things you can do to relieve the stress of uncomfortable symptoms. 

Resources -

Most people with visual snow have limited impairment due to the condition and have found ways of adapting. If you are seeking resources to help cope with or manage VS, please see the resources below. 

Online Forums are great for hearing the experiences of others.  Here is one for VS. 

The AxonOptics website I used to research this article with a ton of cool tips. (I am not affiliated with them in any way)

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