Macular Degeneration and Charles Bonnet Syndrome

 

Charles Bonnet Syndromepic

Charles Bonnet Syndrome
Image: aao.org

At Retina Associates in Tucson, Arizona, Dr. Cameron Javid and his colleagues treat a variety of conditions related to retinal disease or damage. Retina Associates has treated many patients with age-related macular degeneration and other disorders that cause vision loss, a primary contributing factor in Charles Bonnet syndrome.

Charles Bonnet syndrome is a medical condition that causes recurring vivid hallucinations. It is present in up to 30 percent of patients with severe vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and other conditions of the eye. The hallucinations range from the complex to the everyday, but what they all have in common is that the patient recognizes them as illusions.

Both patients and health care providers must remember that Charles Bonnet syndrome is not a psychiatric disorder. It is generally thought to develop similarly to phantom limb pain, in that the brain continues to produce visual images in the absence of stimuli.

Recent research suggests that this may be more likely in patients with hyper-excitability in the visual cortex. Upon stimulating the peripheral vision, still intact in patients with macular degeneration, scientists found that those predisposed to Charles Bonnet hallucinations had more activity in the cortex compared to those without such hallucinations.

The most important thing is to be aware that although concerning it is not harmful and usually resolves with time.

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