People with Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) suffer from complex visual hallucinations that can seem very real. Although there is no cure, there are simple steps people can take to reduce or even stop their hallucinations.
People with CBS experience visual hallucinations, which means they see things that aren’t actually there. This syndrome affects up to 30% of people with visual impairment in both eyes. This article explores Charles Bonnet syndrome, including its symptoms, causes, risk factors, and diagnosis. It also discusses treatments and cures, possible complications in the absence of effective treatment, future prospects for someone with this condition, and frequently asked questions.
Overview of Charles Bonnet Syndrome
SCS is named after the 18th century Swiss scientist Charles Bonnet, who observed the syndrome in his grandfather and later developed it himself. This syndrome affects people with vision loss or other eye conditions. People with CBS see hallucinations because they have damage along their visual pathways, which is the connection between their eyes and their brain. They don’t have any other form of hallucination, such as hearing or smelling things that aren’t there.
CBS is not a mental illness. It affects how the brain processes visual images. It can occur in people of any age, although it is more common in older people. Most sufferers are between the ages of 74 and 84 when doctors make a diagnosis. Researchers don’t know exactly how many people have CBS.
People with CBS see ghosting. These images can be simple lines, shapes or more complex elements such as people, animals or faces. These images are often clear, well defined and organized. A person with CBS has little or no control over their hallucinations. People with CBS tend to see more than one type of hallucination. Hallucinations involving people and faces are particularly common.
A person’s hallucinations can be:
in color or black and white
Most people with CBS have hallucinations when they wake up. However, they can occur at any time. People with CBS tend to find their hallucinations bizarre but not often disturbing.
Possible complications in the absence of treatment
If left untreated, CBS can impact a person’s mental health and cause stress. CBS hallucinations in older people are usually a sign that they may have other illnesses, such as:
Doctors don’t yet know the cause of CBS hallucinations. Some researchers believe that a person may experience CBS hallucinations when they lose visual signals from their eyes to their brain. People can lose some or all of their vision in this way due to conditions such as:
age-related macular degeneration
The visual system then does not process the new images, leaving a gap where the person would normally see things. One of the possible causes of CBS is that the brain fills this void by making up images or recalling stored images for the person to see.
The risk of developing CBS is higher in people who
have some form of visual impairment or have lost their sight
are socially isolated
spend a lot of time in dark environments
There is no single test to diagnose CBS. Instead, doctors will talk to the affected person about their medical history and rule out other causes of visual hallucinations.
These may include
medication side effects
neurological or brain disorders
CBS has no cure or specific treatment. Doctors help people with CBS manage their hallucinations and try to make them last less. In most cases, hallucinations may become less frequent.
People with CBS may be able to manage their hallucinations:
By noting when hallucinations occur and changing their surroundings accordingly: For example, if a person finds that their hallucinations are occurring in brightly lit rooms, they can dim the lighting. If she finds that her hallucinations are occurring in a very quiet environment, she can turn on the radio or television.
Talking and being open about your CBS: It can be helpful to talk to someone about your hallucinations, such as a therapist, relative, or friend. This can provide the person with support and encouragement to help them cope with their CBS.
Have more social interactions: Social isolation is a risk factor for CBS. People can help reduce their hallucinations by participating in social interactions, either in person or online.
Doctors normally prescribe medication only for people with severe, disturbing, or ongoing hallucinations related to CBS. Many of these drugs have only a mixed or weak effect. Some are only effective for a small number of people. They can include
low doses of antipsychotics
Other measures that may help
Certain exercises or eye movements can help reduce CBS hallucinations. A person can try:
moving the eyes rapidly from side to side during a hallucination while keeping the head still
to look away from hallucinations
fix the hallucinations
to close the eyes and re-open them during a hallucination
reaching out to touch the hallucinations.
Regular sleep and exercise can help, as fatigue and stress can make hallucinations worse. Exercise and meditation can also reduce stress and anxiety, which can lead to fewer hallucinations.
Research suggests that some people with CBS do not see a doctor or talk about their hallucinations for fear of being considered mentally ill or receiving a mental health diagnosis. Because of this, CBS may be more common than doctors think. However, people with CBS do not experience a decline in their mental health or faculties. People with CBS are psychologically typical Trusted Source. Although there is no cure for CBS, many people’s symptoms improve over time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions about CBS.
What do people with CBS see?
What people with this syndrome see can vary. However, most of them see images:
repeating patterns of lines, dots, or shapes
flashes of light
landscapes, such as waterfalls or mountains
people dressed in costumes of yesteryear
imaginary creatures, such as dragons
How long is CBS?
CBS hallucinations can last a few seconds, minutes, or hours. With treatment, they can stop after one to two years.
Is CBS life threatening?
CBS causes complex visual hallucinations. However, these do not affect brain health. The syndrome has no life-threatening side effects or complications.
Is CBS linked to dementia?
People with CBS usually do not show signs of dementia. However, doctors can sometimes mistake a person’s CBS for a sign of dementia praecox.
People with CBS have vivid and complex hallucinations that may make them think they have a mental disorder. This is why they are often hesitant to consult a doctor. However, CBS does not affect a person’s mental faculties or health. Although there is no cure for CBS, doctors can help people reduce their hallucinations.