When most people think of migraines, they probably think of a severe headache possibly accompanied by visual disturbances.
A simplistic but accurate view. Of course, migraines come in all shapes and sizes: with or without aura, with or without pain, and some even cause pain in the abdomen instead of the head!
One little-known symptom that is sometimes associated with migraines is a phenomenon known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, or AIWS.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is often associated with classical migraine, though it may also be associated with temporal lobe epilepsy and the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes the illness known as glandular fever.
The most well-known symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome are alterations in body image and visual perception, such that the sizes of body parts (most commonly the head and hands) and external objects or distances are perceived wrongly. Other symptoms may include distortion of the perceptions of time, touch and sound.
The syndrome is most often reported in childhood, and seems to be ‘grown out of’ around the teenage years. However, it can also be experienced during adulthood, and is believed to be a relatively common occurrence at night, at the onset of sleep.
As Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is believed to usually be a symptom of another disorder, and is not usually recognised as a disorder in its own right, there are no specific treatments. However, identifying and treating the underlying cause – such as avoiding migraine triggers like certain foods or lack of sleep – can reduce the symptoms.
If you or your child feel like you may be experiencing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, contact your doctor and also find a support group where you can find reassurance and compare your symptoms with those of others.