What is Alice in Wonderland Syndrome?
Who can get Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
How you get Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
Fixing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome (AIWS, named after the novel written by Lewis Carroll), also known as Todd's syndrome, is a disorienting neurological condition that affects human perception. Sufferers may experience micropsia, macropsia, or size distortion of other sensory modalities. A temporary condition, it is often associated with migraines, brain tumors, and the use of psychoactive drugs. It can also present as the initial sign of the Epstein-Barr Virus (see mononucleosis). Anecdotal reports suggests that the symptoms of AIWS are fairly common in childhood, with many people growing out of them in their teens. It appears that AIWS is also a common experience at sleep onset. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome can be caused by abnormal amounts of electrical activity causing abnormal blood flow in the parts of the brain that processes visual perception and texture.
Although no studies are available that display any correlation between age, sex, or race, AIWS is thought to be relatively common among migraine sufferers and young children.
Signs and symptoms
Eye components are entirely normal. The AIWS is a result of change in perception as opposed to the eyes themselves malfunctioning. The hallmark sign of AIWS is a migraine (AIWS may in part be caused by the migraine). AIWS affects the sufferer's sense of vision, sensation, touch, and hearing, as well as one's own body image.
The most prominent and often most disturbing symptom is that of altered body image: the sufferer will find that he is confused as to the size and shape of parts of (or all of) his body.
The eyes themselves are normal, but the sufferer 'sees' objects with the wrong size or shape or finds that perspective is incorrect. This can mean that people, cars, buildings, etc., look smaller or larger than they should be, or that distances look incorrect; for example a corridor may appear to be very long, or the ground may appear too close.
Similar to the lack of spatial perspective, the sufferer also loses a sense of time. That is, time seems to pass very slowly, akin to an LSD experience. The lack of time, and space, perspective thus leads to a distorted sense of velocity, since one is missing the two most important parts of the equation. For example, one could be inching along ever so slowly in reality, yet it would seem as if one were sprinting uncontrollably along a moving walkway, leading to severe, overwhelming disorientation. This can then cause the sufferer to feel as if movement, even within their own home, is futile.
In addition, some people may, in conjunction with a high fever, experience more intense and overt hallucinations, seeing things that are not there and misinterpreting events and situations.
Other minor or less common symptoms may include loss of limb control and general discoordination, memory loss, lingering touch and sound sensations, and emotional experiences.
AIWS is a disturbance of perception rather than a specific physiological change to the body's systems. The diagnosis can be presumed when other physical causes have been ruled out and if the patient presents symptoms along with migraines and complains of onset during the day (although it can occur at night). Another symptom of AIWS is sound distortion, such as every little movement making a clattering sound. This can make a person with AIWS paranoid and afraid to move.
Treatment is the same as that for other migraine prophylaxis: anticonvulsants, antidepressants, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers, along with strict adherence to the migraine diet. Chronic Alice In Wonderland Syndrome is untreatable and must wear itself out. Rest is the prime treatment, but another effective therapy is to join support groups to share experiences and to know that you are not alone.
Whatever the cause, the distortions can recur several times a day and may take some time to abate. Understandably, the sufferer can become alarmed, frightened, even panic-stricken. The symptoms of the syndrome themselves are not harmful and likely to disappear with time. It is not contagious and rest is the best treatment.
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- ^ Cinbis M, Aysun S; M Cinbis and S Aysun (May 1992). "Alice in Wonderland syndrome as an initial manifestation of Epstein-Barr virus infection.". Br J Ophthalmol 76 (5): 316.doi:10.1136/bjo.76.5.316. PMC 504267. PMID 1390519.
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