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Charles Bonnet syndrome

Charles Bonnet syndrome is a condition which can occur in anyone whose sight is deteriorating, and it causes them to experience visual hallucinations (seeing things which aren’t really there). It can affect people of any age from children to the elderly.

  • The visual hallucinations are different in each person and can range from simple shapes like lines and dots, coloured blobs and geometrical patterns, or more complex images involving faces (sometimes distorted or gargoyle-like), people (young or old), animals, objects or whole vivid scenes.

    The hallucinations can last anything from a few minutes to several hours and appear without warning. They can occur several times a day or a couple times a week/month and can last for a short period or many years.

    It is important to remember that Charles Bonnet syndrome hallucinations only involve sight. If other senses (hearing, smelling, tasting or touching) are involved as well then it is not considered to be Charles Bonner syndrome. Patients with Charles Bonnet syndrome are also aware that the visual hallucinations experienced are not real compared to hallucinations from other causes

  • The exact cause of Charles Bonnet syndrome remain unknown but it is thought to occur due to a reduced visual signals from the eye to the brain, leading to the brain paradoxically firing more signals (hyperactivity) which results in visual hallucinations (almost like filling in the gaps).

    It is important to note that Charles Bonnet syndrome is not caused by dementia or a mental health condition.

  • There is no specific test for Charles Bonnet syndrome. It is diagnosed through taking a detailed medical history and ruling out other possible causes for the hallucinations such as dementia.

  • There is currently no cure for Charles Bonnet syndrome. Several medications have been trialled but there is still no effective treatment. There are certain methods to help alleviate symptoms and the anxiety associated with these visual hallucinations, for more information visit Gene Vision.

    In individuals who are severely affected by these hallucinations, they can be referred to a psychiatrist for further investigation and management.

    Useful resources can also be found at Esme’s Umbrella.

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A picture of Professor Mariya Moosajee

Professor Mariya Moosajee


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