AMD side-effect can be misdiagnosed as dementia

Signs of dementia should not be confused with visual hallucinations common in patients with eye disease, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists is warning.

Up to 20 per cent of patients with age-related macular degeneration may develop Charles Bonnet syndrome, a condition associated with visual hallucinations.

This is often disturbing for patients and can lead to them being misdiagnosed as suffering from dementia.

GPs and other health professionals should advise patients about the risks of developing such hallucinations, said Dr Winfried Amoaku, chairman of the scientific committee of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. It is vital that neither they nor patients confuse the hallucinations with signs of psychoses or dementia, he added.

The college and the Macular Disease Society are launching a campaign this week to raise awareness of Charles Bonnet syndrome.

Dr Amoaku said it is caused by a lack of visual input to the brain's occipital lobe. Hallucinations can involve seeing faces, landscapes, or objects, as well as grids or patterns.

'GPs should advise patients who have poor eyesight about the risk of visual hallucinations and Charles Bonnet syndrome,' he said.

'Patients are reluctant to talk about these hallucinations. They don't want to talk to their relatives or their GP about it, because they don't know what they are.'

He added: 'The most important thing is to recognise that people are not crazy. Many people are content just to know what it is.'

Patients are likely to know what brings on hallucinations and can take steps to reduce them, he added. 'For some patients reading a newspaper may cause them, for others it may be sitting near bright light.'

Up to 100,000 people in the UK are thought to suffer from Charles Bonnet syndrome. Dr Amoaku warned that, as the population ages, prevalence of the condition will increase.

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

Comment below and tell us what you think

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

BMA demands 'rule of six' overhaul to prevent further lockdowns

BMA demands 'rule of six' overhaul to prevent further lockdowns

The government must scrap its high-risk ‘rule of six’ and introduce more stringent...

Average GP practice list tops 9,000 after 30% rise in seven years

Average GP practice list tops 9,000 after 30% rise in seven years

The average GP practice list has risen beyond 9,000 patients for the first time after...

GP dilemma: What should I do if a parent sends their child with COVID-19 symptoms to school?

GP dilemma: What should I do if a parent sends their child with COVID-19 symptoms to school?

Medical Protection's Dr Clare Devlin offers advice on how GPs should respond to parents...

GPs risk missing out on vital COVID-19 risk assessments, BMA warns

GPs risk missing out on vital COVID-19 risk assessments, BMA warns

GPs risk missing out on COVID-19 risk assessments unless practices are guaranteed...

GPs call for partial suspension of network DES amid heavy workload

GPs call for partial suspension of network DES amid heavy workload

GPs leading primary care networks (PCNs) have called for the partial suspension of...

UK COVID-19 alert level raised as GPs prioritised for testing

UK COVID-19 alert level raised as GPs prioritised for testing

The government has raised the UK's COVID-19 alert level to four amid reports that...