According to the Macular Society, up to half of all people with macular degeneration, a gradual loss of central vision, may experience Charles Bonnet Syndrome at some time.
Charles Bonnet Syndrome causes a person whose vision has started to deteriorate to see things that are not real (hallucinations). The hallucinations may be simple patterns, or detailed images of events, people, animals or places. They are only visual and do not involve hearing, or any other sensation. It is important to be aware that hallucinations associated with Charles Bonnet Syndrome are caused by failing eyesight. They are not caused by a mental health problem or dementia.
People with Charles Bonnet Syndrome can usually distinguish between what is real and what is an hallucination, even when the images they see are vivid. Visual hallucinations are a normal response the brain has to the loss of vision. However, as Charles Bonnet Syndrome is not widely known about, many people worry that they may be developing a serious mental health problem, or dementia.
Recently a character in the popular TV soap opera, Coronation Street, admitted to experiencing visual hallucinations. The storyline helps to raise vital awareness of the condition, which often leaves people unnecessarily worried about their mental health. Richard Hawley, who plays Johnny Connor, explains, “Once you have a diagnosis of Charles Bonnet syndrome things can get a little better simply because you know what it is.”
If you are experiencing any symptoms of Charles Bonnet Syndrome please mention this to your GP or at your Eye Clinic appointment. For tips on how to deal with Charles Bonnet Syndrome please contact EYECAN’s Rehabilitation Officer on 864689.