ALICE IN WONDERLAND SYNDROME – HALLUCINOGENIC MIGRAINES

July 11th, 2017

Many of you who either suffer from chronic migraine headaches or have a close friend or loved one, who has them, are familiar with the visual disturbances that can occur prior to the migraine pain, known as auras.

Some symptoms of auras are bright flashing lights, zigzag line in your field of vision and areas in your field of vision that are blocked out, just to mention a few.

These auras are taken to a whole other level of intensity when migraine sufferers experience what are known as “Alice in Wonderland Syndrome” migraines. (AIWS)

Thought to be caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain which leads to irregular blood flow in parts of the brain that control vision, these “hallucinations” result in severe distortion and perception of what the sufferer is viewing.

Sufferers when viewing their own body parts may think that they look gigantic or extremely tiny. Their feet may seem to be a mile away from their knees. Rooms and walls may sway and look like they are bending and flexing.  Hallways can look much longer than they actually are and perception of both time and space can be totally disrupted.  Every day noises like the sound of a TV can sound incredibly loud. Children can complain that the blackboard in school looks very far away.

Episodes of AIWS usually occur without the pain associated with migraines.

These unusual perceptions are very similar to what Alice experienced in Wonderland when she fell into the hole and in fact may be in the story because Lewis Carroll was known to suffer with severe migraines and may have had these kinds of perception issues himself.

AIWS is most common in migraine sufferers and children.  AIWS in children even without migraine pain can indicate that the child might develop migraines as he/she ages.  The eyes are healthy upon examination and the abnormal perception is caused by brain malfunction in the areas of the brain like the occipital lobe that processes perception.

The altered visual images that sufferers perceive can also be coupled with changes in sensation, touch and hearing.  The first attack of AIWS can make sufferers think they are “losing their minds” or going crazy and can be quite upsetting and scary. These disturbances can make a person with AIWS afraid to walk or move.

Other than the fear caused by the strange perceptions caused by AIWS there is no known long-term harm caused by the condition. The episodes should be treated by whatever medical options the sufferer has found beneficial for their regular migraines. Though it is unlikely that there is anything structurally wrong with the brain, to be safe, if you do experience an episode of AIWS, getting an MRI of the brain is advisable.

Since AIWS is not very common, and occurs most frequently in children, it is not known if taking preventive medications or supplements known to prevent chronic migraines such as, prescription drugs or well-known dietary supplements like, MigreLief, will eliminate or reduce the occurrence of AIWS, though it is conceivable they might, because they do help to establish normal cerebrovascular function which goes “haywire” both during migraines and AIWS.

 

Curt Hendrix M.S. C.C.N.  C.N.S.

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