Charles Bonnet Syndrome: Macular Degeneration
One of the more common side effects of macular degeneration is visual hallucinations which occur with 10-40 percent of people with AMD. These hallucinations are extremely alarming to a patient with macular degeneration and can even cause them to question their very own mental state. Our low vision optometrist tries to make it a point to express to every patient with macular degeneration, that there is a very real possibility of having hallucinations because of their vision loss. This is your brains attempt to compensate for a lack of images due to your disease. Charles Bonnet syndrome typically lasts for between 1-1.5 years, and aside from the shock and concern does not have any physical side effects. Keeping an AMD patient in a positive state of mind, and teaching them basic tips when they experience these hallucinations is enough to transform the hallucinations from a major cause of anxiety to a minor inconvenience.
According to Wikipedia (1)
“People with significant vision loss may have vivid, complex recurrent visual hallucinations (fictive visual percepts). One characteristic of these hallucinations is that they usually are "lilliputian" (hallucinations in which the characters or objects are smaller than normal). The most common hallucination is of faces or cartoons”
While there is no treatment or cure for Charles Bonnet Syndrome, if you experience hallucinations due to Charles Bonnet syndrome here are some tips that may help.
- Having the patient feel that this is normal and it will go away is crucial to reducing stress from hallucinations.
- Increases the light in the room, or leaving on the television may be of help.
- Grounding the patient by talking with them or having them focus on real objects.
- Using humor, admiring the capabilities of the brain to create hallucinations, or keeping the patient active may reduce incidents of hallucinations.
- Reducing stress and treating any depression or anxiety is important.