Living with Autosomal Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome

During my short career as a music journalist I have struggled with a condition that very few have heard about but poses a significant barrier to my much-loved hobby. Time and time again it destroys my enjoyment of important musical solos, crucial moments in performances and can even ruin the crescendos of otherwise incredible songs which are often the highlights of a set.

Autosomal Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome is a reaction caused by bright and flashing lights and affects as many as 35% of people in the United States, however it’s exact mechanism of action is still unknown. The disease is thought to be autosomal dominant and therefore if you are a sufferer you also have a 50% chance of passing down the disease to your children. It manifests as uncontrollable sternutation and researches have found it is most likely to be due to changes in light intensity (flashing or pulsating) rather than a specific wavelength.

This is where the problem lies for me, an incredibly serious writer. Flashing and pulsating lights are essential building blocks when it comes to artists building their awe-inspiring shows. Lights add depth and energy to a show especially during a climaxing grand finale, and as a sufferer of Autosomal Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome, I often miss these crucial final moments.

The majority of suffers are female (67%) and Caucasian (94%) and it has significant correlations with a deviated nasal septum which also affects 80% of the population. There are many theories as to what leads to the uncontrollable sternutation which include the same mechanism that develops photophobia in migraines, the parasympathetic nervous system misinterpreting signals, and increased light sensitivity in the optic nerve.

This isn’t just a problem solely relevant to modern day society and flashing disco lights. The Greek philosopher Aristotle first recognised the phenomenon back in 350BC and Francis Bacon in the 17th Century also had theories on the causation of the syndrome. However, today’s research is focused on the work by Henry Everett in 1964 who linked the syndrome to the human nervous system.

For now, I continue to work and to write, filling in the gaps of sections of shows that I have missed due to being struck down unexpectedly. Others with Autosomal Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome will appreciate that this is no joke and will hopefully stand by me in saying that this is definitely nose laughing matter.

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