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What Is Micropsia?

At the onset of a migraine headache, a person may experience micropsia.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome causes bizarre sensory experiences for its sufferers.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: Mediablitzimages, Caio_Garcia
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2014
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Micropsia is a change in visual perception caused by swelling in the corneal areas of the eye. In general, those with micropsia perceive objects as much smaller than their actual size. The condition has also been called Alice In Wonderland Syndrome, and the effect is sometimes given the fanciful name of Lilliput sight after the novel Gulliver's Travels.

Micropsia is usually a temporary condition that can be caused by several factors. Some types of epilepsy have been known to cause visual distortion. The onset of migraine headaches may be marked by micropsia. In addition, swelling caused by the Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to episodes of micropsia.

Children between the ages of five and ten seem particularly prone to micropsia, as well as macropsia, which causes things to appear bigger than they are. These symptoms, which can prove extremely distressing, may lead to panic or severe disturbance in young children. They are almost always associated with conditions that can lead to migraine headaches at a future point. Such perceptions should be taken seriously, however; in vary rare cases, swelling of the brain or tumors may cause perceptional differences.

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Micropsia is a fairly common symptom of the use of both hallucinogenic and opiate-based drugs like hydrocodone and oxycodone. Morphine and heroin in particular are associated with this condition, and may also cause other difficulties perceiving spatial relationships. Such differences can heighten the panic of drug users or of those hospitalized. A calm explanation of this condition is often helpful to those on high doses of pain medication, so such symptoms are not completely unexpected.

In rare cases, micropsia can be of psychological origin. Someone with extreme anorexia might be able to look at a friend and see a perfect figure, but be unable to see such a figure in herself. Visual perceptions affecting body perception are often labeled as body dysmorphic disorder.

There are few studies on how to prevent micropsia in those who seem predisposed due to medical reasons. When illness or migraines cause the condition, it is usually short-lived and is not treated. Control of migraines through medication may cause micropsia to be of shorter duration. Knowledge that the condition may occur seems to be most helpful in easing panic related to extreme difference in perception.

In the case of Epstein Barr Virus leading to mononucleosis, micropsia may present as an initial symptom. This symptom may provide a reason to test for mononucleosis, but usually no specific treatment for the micropsia itself is undertaken. Usually, the condition improves within a few days.

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Discuss this Article

anon359348
Post 11

I started getting this when I was about 5 and it lasted until my early 30s. It was exactly like looking through binoculars backward and it was very frightening. It always happened at night and I was even woken by it. I found that if I focused on something and kept my eyes still, it eventually went away. Because of that, I always had to have the curtains pulled back to allow some light into the room. I'm so glad that I've found a name for the condition and that other people have had it too, because I thought I was the only one.

anon345899
Post 10

It's sometimes treated with anti seizures, and tricyclic antidepressants, but you have to stick with your treatment religiously, or your symptoms can and will return. I find that if I've made a mistake with my medication, it generally takes about ten days for the symptoms to subside after restarting treatment.

anon277646
Post 9

@anon257000: Can you please tell me how you got rid of micropsia? Like, did it go away gradually or instantly and what did you do to get rid of it?

anon257000
Post 8

I stumbled onto this syndrome by accident online. I was astounded. I had this syndrome when I was a child. I called it “big feelings.” I didn’t know how to explain to my parents what was happening to me other than to say I was having “big feelings.” I would also go into panic mode and shake all over. I even missed school because of it. It really distressed my parents, especially my mother. The episodes would usually last an hour or two and then gradually subside.

As I grew older, I discovered that if I watched television, the conditioned seemed to clear up. Maybe it was the result of focusing on something. I don’t know. As I came to understand that it was only hallucinations and it would not hurt me, I grew out of it.

I have never been able to initiate the condition willfully, as someone here claims.

All my life, though, I have wondered about it and wondered what it was. My parents never sought medical counsel for me. I stumbled onto the syndrome accidentally when researching Complex Partial Seizures for my husband, who has epilepsy.

anon171728
Post 7

What is the genetic source for Micropsia?

anon170214
Post 6

for me it's like looking through binoculars backward. everything seems a long way away. and it feels that way to. But guess what? i can summon it any time i want. all i have to do is meditate. i think that puts a wrench in some of the theories' gears.

anon79909
Post 4

Micropsia usually occurs after a genetic source, and surgeries may induce the risk of the genetic disease. TO anon21058a and anon4446

anon21058
Post 3

Can you have microspia after a corneal transplant?

anon4446
Post 2

What I really need to know is how this is treated, the micropsia that is.

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