Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) describes when a person has visual hallucinations that can vary for each individual but can be quite vivid and realistic. The hallucinations can appear in many different forms, from simple lines and dots, coloured blobs and geometrical patterns, bricks and blocks in front of you, to more complex hallucinations of faces, people appearing around you, vehicles driving at you, or a variety of other scenes. These hallucinations typically occur when a person has lost over 60% of their sight.
This sight loss can be caused by any one of the eye diseases, cancer of the eye, stroke, an accident involving the eye, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or another condition which damages the optic nerve. CBS does not affect everyone with low vision. CBS can be frightening and can cause people to feel quite distressed, but it should not be confused with a mental health condition. It is really important to seek help if you are experiencing these hallucinations as many people are scared to speak out because they are worried about seeing these things.
On Thursday, 16th November it is Charles Bonnet Syndrome Awareness Day, so during the month we will be holding drop-in coffee and chat sessions as part of our Connections Groups, as well as a CBS Coffee Morning at The Bradbury Centre on the 16th November from 10.30am – 12.30 pm. Everyone is welcome and feel free to bring partners, carers, friends and family members along too. Emily Walker, an NHS Orthoptist at one of our weekly low-vision clinics told us, “We have recently undertaken a three-month service evaluation regarding the prevalence of CBS within our Worcestershire low-vision population. Interestingly, 44% of Worcestershire low vision patients reported experiencing CBS hallucinations. Patients reported an extensive range of hallucinations, from patterns and colours to detailed images of people, animals, and buildings. Of the patients who experienced the hallucinations, only 12% were previously aware of what CBS was, whilst 38% found the hallucinations disturbing or stressful.”
“This is similar to a largescale study of 492 (Cox and Ffytche, 2014), which found that 33% experienced negative emotions about the hallucinations. This study found that the most effective method to reduce the impact of the hallucinations was education and reassurance. This highlights the value of having open and honest conversations with other people who experience sight loss, friends and family, as well as healthcare professionals within the eye profession. There is a lot of information, courses and conferences provided by the charity Esme’s Umbrella. Attending sight loss support groups, such as those held by Sight Concern, will provide an opportunity to discuss these hallucinations with people who may possibly be experiencing them too.”
For further support visit: www.charlesbonnetsyndrome.uk