Charles Bonnet Syndrome
Have you experienced visual hallucinations following vision loss or a decline in your vision? It is thought that roughly 20% to 50% of people who experience significant vision loss suffer from Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS). The population having the highest potential for acquiring this is generally older adults with recent vision loss. People suffering from CBS report seeing a wide range of hallucinations ranging from simple shapes, to vivid images. These images will generally vary from person to person and occurrence to occurrence.
If you begin to experience any level of hallucinations, it is recommended you talk with your physician in order to rule out any psychiatric concerns. Generally, if you are aware of the fact that the hallucinations are not real and they are not involving any of your other senses including smell, touch, or taste, you should not be alarmed. Remember, these are illusions and should not be confused with delusions. Physicians feel as though your brain is making up for the loss of your vision and is replaying images from the past, or it may be making up images to help “fill this void”.
There is no medical cure at this time, however these hallucinations typically fade and become less frequent over time. Thoughts on ways to reduce these occurrences will vary as much as the hallucinations themselves. Reaching out to others to discuss what is happening and using humor are some ways that have helped people cope. Also, try looking away, closing or moving your eyes, walking away, changing the light in a room, or talking to or shouting at the hallucination. Just remember you are not alone and it is always good to speak to someone who has had a personal experience or understands CBS.