Looking for change

Monday, 24th November, 2014

UNUSUAL VISIONS – A depiction of one of the types of “overlay” people with Charles Bonnet Syndrome see.

PATTERNS and colours may sound like a pretty way to see the world, but for a surprising number of people it is a very real vision problem, as well as being socially isolating.

A condition known as Charles Bonnet syndrome is the occurrence of phantom visions in people who have some form of eye disease.

In fact, the syndrome affects 20 per cent of all vision-impaired people, chiefly people aged over 65  with eye diseases including  cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

The phantom images can include geometric patterns, faces, figures, animals, flowers, buildings and even full landscapes.

When people first notice symptoms it can be a terrifying experience. One woman with CBS said, “It is the fear of what is happening to you”.

The Charles Bonnet Syndrome Foundation aims to help those with the condition manage their symptoms more effectively.

The foundation offers emotional support, information, case management and practical assistance to people with CBS and their partner, carer or family.

The foundation also aims to raise awareness of the condition and advocate for more recognition and resources in the health sector, as well as more money for research.

The foundation's website has comprehensive information about the condition and offers guidance on how it can be managed.

Among treatment suggestions, the foundation recommends taking opportunities to stimulate the senses, such as listening to audio books, playing music, taking up a creative hobby, exercising, communing with nature and taking up knitting or gardening or other tactile activity.

All these things stimulate the brain and may reduce the likelihood of the syndrome.

The foundation has a national helpline for anyone affected, including family members or friends. The telephone support helpline is available Monday to Friday (noon-5pm AEST) from anywhere in Australia.

• Charles Bonnet Syndrome Foundation, national helpline 1300-121-123,

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