Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Visual Hallucination & AMD

Vision loss from Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) or other causes is known to cause some people to see faces or shapes that aren't really there. But a new study suggests these hallucinations, known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome, affect many more people with AMD than previously thought. More than 12% of people with AMD experience visual hallucinations, the study found. The actual number may be even higher. On average, people experience these hallucinations on and off for about 3 years. Those who experience hallucinations tend to see multiple types of images, particularly people and faces. Many people keep quiet about these phantom images for fear they'll be labeled with dementia or a psychiatric condition. Their hesitancy to speak up could explain why hallucinations were thought to be relatively uncommon until now.

Why Do People with Macular Degeneration Have Hallucinations

Hallucinations in people with vision loss do not stem from neurological problems. Rather, they occur when brain craves new images to process. Finding none (due to vision loss), the brain resorts to making up images or recalling images from memory.

These phantom images may be simple lines, shapes, flashes of light or more complex images of faces, people or animals. They can occur at any time and last for seconds, minutes or hours. Sometimes the images remain still, other times they move around. People with significant vision loss, especially loss of central vision, are most often affected.

How to Deal with Visual Hallucinations

There is no cure or treatment for Charles Bonnet Syndrome, but there are strategies to stave off episodes and cope with hallucinations that occur. If you feel you are seeing things that aren’t really there, reach out to your doctor. They will rule out other causes of visual hallucinations like neurological conditions or medication-related side effects. If your doctor thinks you have Charles Bonnet Syndrome, they will give you techniques to manage the hallucinations. These include:
  • Changing Your Lighting Conditions and Environment
  • Blinking Frequently or Moving Your Eyes Side-to-Side
  • Sleeping, Exercising and/or Relaxing, as Fatigue and Stress can Exacerbate Hallucinations
If you or someone you know is over 65, please schedule regular eye exams for common senior eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration (AMD) so you can maintain eye health. Schedule an eye exam at Alabama Eye & Cataract Center in Birmingham at 205-930-0930, visit Alabama Eye & Cataract Center or Facebook.

Alabama Eye & Cataract Center is a leading eye care center in Birmingham located at UAB-Highlands, 1201 11th Avenue S, Suite 501, Birmingham, Alabama 35205 and staffed by UAB Medicine eye doctors and eye specialists.