Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Charles Bonnet syndrome describes the visual hallucinations brought on by the brain’s change to significant vision loss. It takes place usually amongst the elderly who are most likely than other age to have eye conditions that impact sight, such as age-related macular degeneration.

Estimates vary, however it is believed that about one person in every two with vision loss might experience hallucinations, which means Charles Bonnet syndrome is typical. Regardless of this, the majority of people are not knowledgeable about this condition.

Research recommends that many individuals who suffer from Charles Bonnet syndrome do not consult their doctor out of worry and shame, as hallucinations are associated with mental illness. In many cases, the hallucinations go away as the brain adapts.

Charles Bonnet syndrome

Causes of Charles Bonnet Syndrome

The underlying system of Charles Bonnet syndrome is not understood. Doctors understand that vision loss sets off the visual hallucinations. It is unclear how the brain stores visual details, but we understand that visual details from the eyes stops the brain from developing its own images. Maybe the loss of visual details from the eyes enables the brain to ‘play’ with its saved image library.

Symptoms of Charles Bonnet Syndrome

The symptoms and signs of Charles Bonnet syndrome include:

  • Substantial vision loss
  • Visual hallucinations
  • No control over the hallucinations
  • A realisation that the hallucinations aren’t real.

Types of Hallucinations in Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Generally, the hallucinations tend to occur when the person is alone, peaceful and in a familiar environment, for instance, when lying awake in bed.

The two types of visual hallucination most typical to Charles Bonnet syndrome consist of:

  • Simple – such as patterns and lines, for example, the individual might see brickwork images, netting or mosaics
  • Complicated – such as seeing people, structures, landscapes or places. Complicated hallucinations are most likely to occur in people with severe vision loss.

Functions of Charles Bonnet Hallucinations

The functions of hallucinations can vary commonly from one episode to the next and from a single person to the next. For example, the images may be:

  • color, or black and white
  • static like a photo, or moving like an event in real life
  • life-sized, or reduced in size
  • reasonable (such as animals from the real life), or fantastic (such as mythological beasts).
  • short (they continue for a few minutes), or prolonged (they persist for a few hours).
  • satisfying like an enjoyable dream, or frightening like a headache.
  • meaningless and random, or including familiar people or familiar places.
  • various whenever, or a person might see the very same products in every hallucination.

Complications of Charles Bonnet Syndrome

An individual with Charles Bonnet syndrome has no control over their hallucinations. They may cause issues in their everyday life since:

  • The hallucinations overlay pictures of the real life, so the individual might have difficulty negotiating daily jobs, such as walking through an unknown environment.
  • The person may not know at first whether the image is genuine or imagined, which can be frightening if they are seeing, for instance, a complete stranger in the house.
  • Seeing things that aren’t there is traumatic, even if the images are pleasant.
  • The individual might fear they are going mad or displaying signs of dementia.

Other Causes of Visual Hallucinations

Visual hallucinations might have causes other than Charles Bonnet syndrome, including:

  • dementia.
  • some forms of mental illness.
  • stroke.
  • oestrogen replacement therapy.
  • parkinson’s disease.
  • psychotic drugs such as cannabis.
  • blindness in one side of the visual field (hemianopia).
  • pituitary tumor.
  • short-term after-effects of cataract surgery.
  • kidney dialysis that consists of the hormone erythropoietin.

Diagnosis of Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Medical diagnosis of Charles Bonnet syndrome might consist of:

  • your medical history.
  • a health examination.
  • an eye evaluation.
  • medical tests to rule out other causes of visual hallucinations.

Treatment for Charles Bonnet Syndrome

In many cases, Charles Bonnet syndrome fixes itself after about 12 to 18 months without treatment. It is a smart idea to learn whatever you can about Charles Bonnet syndrome. Understanding the condition can help to minimize feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Sometimes the hallucinations don’t go away, however there is no medical remedy.

Depending upon the intensity of the condition, treatment might consist of:

  • Medical advice – talking it over with a doctor or counsellor can be helpful.
  • Vision therapy – low-vision rehab might help to relieve symptoms.
  • Moving your eyes – some people report that the hallucinations dissipate if they move their look from side to side or up and down.
  • Changing the variables – to ‘switch off’ the hallucination, you could attempt changing the environment or setting that you remain in. For example: if it’s dark, turn on the light, or if you’re standing up, sit down. If your eyes are open, shut them, or if you’re in one room, go to another space.

Things to remember:

  • Charles Bonnet syndrome refers to the visual hallucinations triggered by the brain’s modification to considerable vision loss.
  • It happens usually amongst the elderly who are more likely than other age group to have eye conditions that affect sight, such as age-related macular degeneration.
  • Many individuals who suffer from Charles Bonnet syndrome do not consult with their doctor from fear and shame, as hallucinations are associated with mental illness.
Reyus Mammadli (Eyexan Team Leader) / author of the article
Bachelor in biomedical and electrical apparatus and systems. For more than 20 years he has been studying methods to improve health using affordable and safe methods. Collaborates with eye care charity organization of the CCP. Specialization is a vision correction by laser surgery, including LASIK.
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