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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Charles Bonnet syndrome

Other Names for this Disease
  • CBS
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What are the signs and symptoms of Charles Bonnet syndrome?

Hallucinations associated with Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) can be simple, non-formed images such as lines, light flashes, or geometric shapes or they can be complex, formed images of people, animals, or scenes.[1] They are usually not disturbing, and are typically only visual. Affected individuals typically have a loss of central visual acuity contributing to their symptoms, although this is not always the case.[2] They are generally aware that the hallucinations are not real and do not have psychosis or dementia.

The timing and frequency of hallucinations can vary widely among individuals with CBS. They may be episodic, periodic, or chronic. The hallucinations are usually daily or weekly and tend to occur upon awakening. The duration of the hallucinations is usually several minutes, but can be seconds or hours. Typically, there is a distinctive pattern to the timing and frequency of the hallucinations for any given affected individual. The degree and complexity of the hallucinations also vary among individuals, but no association has been found between the complexity of the hallucinations and the severity of visual loss.[2]

Associated symptoms depend upon the underlying disorder producing the visual loss. For example, strokes involving the visual pathways produce visual field loss and sometimes other neurologic deficits, while macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy produce loss of visual acuity without neurologic deficits.[1]
Last updated: 1/4/2013

  1. Victoria S Pelak. Visual release hallucinations (Charles Bonnet syndrome). UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate; 2012;
  2. Schadlu AP, Schadlu R, Shepherd JB 3rd. Charles Bonnet syndrome: a review. Curr Opin Ophthalmol. May 2009;