News & Promotions

This Might Just Be the Most Important Test Your Ch...
Is making an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam for your children on your back-to-school checklist? It needs to be.No amount of new clothes, back...

Video Education Library


Have you ever heard of Charles Bonnet?  He was a Swiss naturalist, philosopher, and biologist (1720-1793) who first described the hallucinatory experiences of his 89-year-old grandfather, who was nearly blind in both eyes from cataracts.  Charles Bonnet Syndrome is now the term used to describe simple or complex hallucinations in people who have impaired vision.  

Symptoms

People who experience these hallucinations know they aren't real.  These hallucinations are only visual, and they don't involve any other senses. These images can be simple patterns or more complex, like faces or cartoons.  They are more common in people who have retinal conditions that impair their vision, like macular degeneration, but they can occur with any condition that damages the visual pathway.  The prevalence of Charles Bonnet Syndrome among adults 65 years and older with significant vision loss is reported to be between 10% and 40%.  This condition is probably under reported because people may be worried about being labeled as having a psychiatric condition. 

Causes

The causes of these hallucinations are controversial, but the most supported theory is deafferentation, which in this case is the loss of signals from the eye to the brain; then, in turn, the visual areas of the brain discharge neural signals to create images to fill the void.  This is similar to the phantom limb syndrome, when a person feels pain where a limb was once present.  In general, the images that are produced by the brain are usually pleasant and non-threatening.

Treatment and prognosis

If there is a reversible cause of decreased vision, such as significant cataract, then once the decreased vision is treated, the hallucinations should stop.

There is no proven treatment for the hallucinations as a result of permanent vision loss but there are some techniques to manage the condition.  Give these a try if you have Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

  • Talking about the hallucinations and understanding that it is not due to mental illness can be reassuring.
  • Changing the environment or lighting conditions.  If you are in a dimly lit area, then switch on the light and vice versa. 
  • Blinking and moving your eyes to the left and right and looking around without moving your head have been reported as helpful.
  • Resting and relaxing.  The hallucinations may be worse if you are tired or sick.
  • Taking antidepressants and anticonvulsants have been used but have questionable efficacy. 

Over time, the hallucinations become more manageable and can decrease or even stop after a couple of years.

If you experience any of these symptoms, please get evaluated by your eye doctor to make sure there is not a treatable eye condition.  Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed—your issue is likely caused by a physical disturbance and we are here to help!

Article contributed by Jane Pan

This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

Stewart Family Eye Care

has been voted 

BEST VISION CARE

by the readers of The Greer Citizen

for 10 consecutive years!

older man with glasses

Ask Dr. Stewart Your Eye Care Questions

What can be expected during a contact lens fitting?

A patient can expect to have a different experience when having a contact lens fitting. In addition to the eyeglass exam, questions will be asked to determine which contact lens will work best for them. Will they want to leave the lenses in their eyes overnight or will they remove them every day? Will they wear them only occasionally or will they be for everyday use? Do they want a contact lens that they throw away every day or do they want a contact lens that they have to clean and disinfect? If the patient is over age 40 and has a compromised ability to see up close, how will they see up close with their contact lenses? Will they wear readers over their distant contacts, or will they wear multifocal contacts, or will they wear monovision?

Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Experiencing dry eye symptoms is more common as we grow older, particularly in people 50 years of age and older. Hormonal changes in women who are experiencing menopause or who are post-menopausal. Inflammation in our body can affect the tear gland's ability to produce tears. Eye or health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's Syndrome can be associated with Dry Eyes. Environmental conditions such as dry winter air, dry indoor heated air, working on the computer, and wearing contact lenses can cause Dry Eyes.

Are there advantages to single-use contact lenses? What are they?

Single-use daily wear contacts are convenient to the patient and a healthy recommendation from their eye doctor. At the end of the day, the patient only has to dispose of the contacts. There is no need to take the contacts out to clean and disinfect them. The patients time and money spent on solutions and caring for them are eliminated. Not to mention that the next time they wear a contact, they will be wearing a brand new contact! The single best recommendation your eye doctor can make is to recommend single-use daily wear contacts. They are the healthiest contact that can be worn. The contact lens pathology issues of wearing the same contact for two or four weeks such as neovascularization, microcystic edema, and bacterial infections are greatly reduced.

What is an eye infection?

Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and can affect just one eye or both. Two common eye infections are conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) and lid styes which are swollen lid bumps that can also be painful. Common signs of an eye infection are pain, itching, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye, photosensitivity, redness or small red lines in the white of the eye, discharge of yellow pus that may be crusty upon awaking, and tears.

What happens during a typical Diabetic Eye Exam?

Your Eye Doctor will evaluate the back of your eye called the Retina to check for leaking blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated blood sugars damage the walls of the blood vessels. The vessel walls may thicken, leak, develop clots, close off, or grow balloon-like defects called microaneurysms.

My eyes tear all the time. Why do you call it Dry Eyes?

Your eyes have extra tears because your eyes produce extra tears to combat irritation and dryness. A better way to describe Dry Eyes is tear film instability, which refers to the composition of your tears not being in the proper composition. Stopping eyes from producing extra tears is a goal in the treatment of Dry Eyes.

At what age should my child have his/her eyes examined?

If you ask 10 different Doctors you will get 10 different answers. Newborns have their eyes checked in the birthing ward for starters. From birth to age 5 their eyes are growing. At age 5 is a good time to schedule a regular eye examination, however, if any unusual eye behavior is observed under age 5 an eye exam should be scheduled at that time. Unusual eye behavior such as eye squinting, a head tilt, or having to get close to see.