Charles Bonnet Syndrome – what is it?

If you’re a fan of Coronation Street, you may have recently become aware of a storyline involving Johnny Connor, landlord of The Rovers Return, who is living with Charles Bonnet Syndrome. An amazing platform to share this common and yet relatively unheard of condition, the team at Coronation Street, along with Richard Hawley who plays Mr Connor, worked with Esme’s Umbrella in order to portray the symptoms as accurately as possible.

But what is Charles Bonnet Syndrome? The College of Optometrists have released some helpful information on this interesting condition:

Do you have diminishing sight and are you seeing images which could not possibly be there?

If so, you may have developed Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS). This is a natural and very common condition (an estimated 1 million people in the UK) which causes people of any age – children too – who have lost over 60% of sight, to experience vivid, silent, visual hallucinations. These can range from disturbing to terrifying. It is NOT a mental health condition.
It happens because the messages which wing their way constantly from the retina in the eye to the visual cortex in the brain slow or stop – but, for some reason we still do not understand, the brain then fires up and creates its own images. What you see depends on which part of the brain is firing.

During lock-down we heard from many people for whom CBS was exacerbated by the isolation and stress. Images seen became more frightening. Fever, too, can make the hallucinations worse. It is always worth asking your GP to check the side effects of any medication you are taking because sometimes hallucinations are one of them. Another brand might help the situation.

Charles Bonnet syndrome advice, information and support
The Macular Society runs a buddy service for people affected by Charles Bonnet syndrome. Telephone the helpline during office hours (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) 0300 30 30 111.

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