I see ‘White Noise’

I see ‘White Noise’

It’s confession time again. I never really wanted to tell anybody this, but I decided the hell with it. If people want to judge me on this, they can go you-know-where.

 I don’t know why it took me so long to look into this. Maybe because I believed that I was the only one cursed with this sight.



I see little dots or flickers during the day and in the night that can only be described as ‘white noise’. It gets worse at night time.

What is ‘White Noise’?

When considering visual white noise, it is often referred to as ‘snow’, such as one might see on a television station that isn’t playing any current programming.

Visual white noise from Television

Visual white noise from Television

The ‘white noise’ angered my fear for the dark. I have learned from a very early age that light is my friend. Light takes my mind off of the ‘white noise’.

I had a hard time growing up.  I couldn’t explain it to my family, because they simply could not understand what I was talking about. I felt isolated and ashamed, because I slept with the light on (I still do).

Some of my cousins teased me because of it and that made me ending up resenting them.


I couldn’t enjoy things other normal kids took for granted:

–       Sleepovers,

–       Camping,

–       Vacations away from home

I can’t remember the exact moment I’ve realised seeing them, but I do remember a distinctive moment in my childhood when I couldn’t go to sleep, because it was dark and all I could see was the dots (especially closing my eyes) and it wouldn’t go away.

I fled to my parents’ room where my mom tried to console me and told me just to ignore it and think happy thoughts, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

When I explained to her years later growing up it’s similar to white noise she said that she see it too and it doesn’t bother her, but I never believed her.

I didn’t want to believe anyone else if they said they saw it too, because if it were true then why are they okay with it and I’m not? 

I grew up with the lies that visual snow is caused by watching too much television or sitting in front of the computer all day. Even though, these two things can make your vision a little worse that’s not all of it.


What I found out: 

It’s a rare medical condition caused by unknown neurological effects. Visual snow or visual white noise occurs when pulse signals sent by your eyes are misread by the brain.

visual snow

This condition is also known as “visual snow”, “visual stress”, “visual white noise” and/or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.

The ‘noise’ usually refers to the the wide scope of dots you see in your field of view. But there have been cases where Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome sufferers also hear a high pitched sound. 

It gets very technical, so I will be quoting from a study done by James T. Furton Visual Snow: Its Perception and its cause

Furton identifies two types of visual snow:

 1.      Pulse type visual snow:

“extraneous dots appear scattered about the visual field suggestive of rain drops on a windshield of a car during very light rain. The dots may be darker or lighter than the average content of the scene. They may also tend to flicker individually, or to appear to swirl around in the visual field (like lines of ants).”

 2.      Broadband visual snow:

“the noise appears as a coarse texture (similar to that seen on a TV turned to a blank channel) of low amplitude obscuring the scene in object space. The noise may appear both lighter and darker than the background.”

 I’m not sure which one I am. I think I’m a little bit of both.


How ‘visual snow’ occurs according to Furton:

“While little known to the lay public and much of academia, the human visual system operates as a change detector and relies upon the fine motion of the eyes, known as tremor, to generate the signals used in vision. As a result of tremor, all of the pulse signals, known as action potentials, traveling over the optic nerve between the eyes and the brain are normally synchronous with the motion of the eyes. Visual snow is caused by the introduction of non-synchronous action potentials into the signals carried by the individual neurons of the optic nerve. The non-synchronous nature of these action potentials makes them appear at random locations within the field of view.”

“Visual snow is typically reported to be present continuously, even with both eyes closed (and even while dreaming according to some reports). The perception of visual snow is sometimes reduced depending on the level of attention of the individual to specific tasks.”

When I look at trees I can’t see it as much.

“The appearance of visual snow in color, particularly like confetti in the case of broadband visual snow is unusual. Because of the small size of the dots in impulse type visual snow, colored snow of this type is seldom reported and probably anecdotal.”

When I close my eyes or try to see in the dark I see ‘pink noise’ in between the ‘white noise’.

Every indication suggests Visual Snow arises in the higher level areas of the central nervous system (the brain) and not in the eyes or the lower levels of information extraction, such as the occipital lobe of the CNS (also known as the primary visual cortex).

The major cause of Visual Snow appears to be an abnormal flow of chemical nutrients, particularly glutamic acid to and gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) away from, a very small group of neurons (probably less than 100 in each case) within the central nervous system (CNS). These chemicals are instrumental in providing the electrical biasing of the electrolytic neurons. The result is abnormal operation of these neurons.

The perception of visual snow does not appear to worsen significantly following its initial appearance. It is generally not progressive. On the other hand, visual snow rarely disappears once it appears.


Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome: 

If you want to see what it is like for someone suffering from Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, you can check out Alison Hale’s website: www.hale.ndo.co.uk. Alison Hale has this to say about SSS:

“It is believed that this condition affects, to varying degrees, approximately 12% of the population and that the condition is somehow caused by the brain and/or eye incorrectly processing/interpreting what the eye is seeing. “

 This condition makes it harder for people with SSS to read, because it’s as if the words or letters jump around on the page.

(I have no trouble reading, but I do see the visual snow while I’m reading. I just choose not to focus on it  – I rather focus on the words).

Their vision aren’t just compromised by reading things from a white background. They also suffer from these symptoms:

stripy patterns and bold patterns such as those on some clothes, carpets, wallpaper, posters etc. can appear to move/vibrate and some patterns may appear to be three dimensional instead of flat.

Sufferers of this rare disease are also prone to migraines, because of the visual distortions they are experiencing.

The only thing I fear more than the ‘white noise’ is the migraine stars/blurring. With the ‘white noise’ I can still make out things. With a migraine I cannot make out anything.

I remember in my Matric year I got a migraine so bad during one of my Math papers my line of vision was so distorted and blurry I couldn’t make out anything.

I didn’t say anything to the teachers because by that time the Head of our Grade teacher didn’t believe me any more and thought I was making things up.

I flunked that exam getting only 39% for Maths.

The really ironic thing is that that teacher once confided in the class that she is Dyslexic and she was teaching Accounting!

How come then only dyslexia is accepted and not Visual snow or migraines?


Who knows what the future may bring?

 Unfortunately, because of the lack of scientific research and studies done there are no proven cure for this disease.

 The only recent scientific understanding of Visual snow I could find, was in Mr Furton’s study.

At this time, the most likely cause of the disease known as visual snow is a chemical or hydraulic imbalance associated with the higher visual centers of the thalamus (upper brainstem), parietal lobe of the brain or the prefrontal lobe of the brain. The specific nature of this imbalance is yet to be determined. Until then, no treatment or cure for the disease can be offered. The problem is probably centered on less than 100 neurons, which is far below the resolution of current imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computer aided tomography (CAT).”

Until a very highly targeted medical treatment for the condition is developed, it is not likely to be curable. The reason is that most treatments to correct the abnormal local chemical flow within the CNS are likely to cause abnormal conditions (side effects) elsewhere within the CNS.

There are people who never had this problem, but by taking certain prescribed drugs or antidepressants, they have picked up this condition as a side effect.


About dada4nonsense

I am a 23 year old (at heart) who loves anything nonsensical

Posted on November 13, 2013, in Notes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Saw a link for this from Rene Bohnen’s FB page. I don’t have the snow, but when I close my eyes I see flashing stripes with small bursts of stars appearing in between. With my eyes open I’ll see slightly blurred places appearing, but it’s not pronounced enough to bother me. I just thought that is what everyone sees. Btw, I do get the migraines where I can’t see anything and certain patterns move/vibrate for me as well. Once again I thought that was normal.

    • I guess it turns out it’s not normal. For me it is very disturbing. Now all I can do is make people aware of it and find a way to accept it. Thanks for reading my article.

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