Some people with sight loss experience visual hallucinations, known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Many worry unnecessarily that there is something wrong with their mind. It is important to understand that the hallucinations are a natural experience and not a sign of mental illness.
Up to half of all people with macular degeneration are thought to experience visual hallucinations at some time. They are more likely to occur if both eyes are affected by sight loss. Charles Bonnet hallucinations can be simple unformed flashes of light, colours or shapes. However, many people see geometrical grids and lattices. Other people also report seeing landscaped gardens or vistas, animals, people or other vivid images.
The Macular Society has sponsored research by Dr Dominic ffytche at the Institute of Psychiatry in London into non-drug treatments for visual hallucinations. Dr ffytche recommends using eye movements to lessen hallucination impact and length. Eye movements activate visual parts of the brain in people with macular disease, even if they have little remaining vision. These movements may stop certain types of hallucinations, particularly the grids, checkerboards, lattices and colours.