What do blind people see? - Macular Degeneration

What do Blind People See? – Macular Degeneration

Age-Related Macular Degeneration or AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people aged 65 or over. AMD Occurs when the Macular, the part of the eye responsible for central vision stops working. This usually happens gradually over time.

Video Simulation of Macular Degeneration

Watch this video for an artistic impression of how Macular Degeneration may progress over time

Symptoms

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration include:-

  • Straight lines such as door frames and lampposts may appear distorted or bent
  • Vision may become blurry or develop gaps
  • Objects in front of you may change shape, size, colour or seem to move or disappear
  • Dark spots, such as a smudge on glasses, could appear in the centre of your vision
  • Colours can fade
  • You may find bright light glaring and uncomfortable
  • You may find it difficult to adapt from dark to light environment
  • Words might disappear when you are reading

Types of AMD

There are two types of Macular Degeneration, Wet MD and Dry MD. Dry MD causes a gradual deterioration in vision over several years as the cells of the Macular naturally die off but are not replaced. Around 15% of people with Dry MD will go on to develop Wet MD.

In Wet MD abnormal blood vessels grow into the macular and cause scarring. Wet MD can cause a sudden deterioration in vision if these vessels bleed. However, it can be treated if caught quickly.

MD only affects the central vision, so patients will still be able to see using their peripheral or side vision

Visual Hallucinations

Visual Hallucinations in people with sight loss – Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a condition where people with sight loss experience visual hallucinations (seeing things that are not there). In this article, we attempt to answer some questions about this condition.

What sort of Hallucinations do people with sight loss get?

  • People may see patterns, colours, shapes (simple hallucinations) or distorted faces, objects, animals, landscapes, people in period costume (complex hallucinations).
  • Hallucinations are often vivid and can be seen in greater detail than the person can see in real life.
  • The hallucinations may be frightening or benign.
  • The hallucinations are always visual, they don’t involve taste, touch, smell or hearing things.
  • People are usually aware that what they are seeing is not real or learn to recognise them as not real, they do not develop delusions.
  • Charles Bonnet syndrome isn’t a mental illness

Who gets Charles Bonnet Syndrome?

  • Usually occurs in people with more than 60% sight loss.
  • Can occur at any age
  • According to the Macular Society up to half of people with Macular Degeneration experience visual hallucinations (Macular Society, n.d.).

What causes Charles Bonnet Syndrome?

  • Normally when the eyes are open the brain is constantly receiving visual signals.
  • Different parts of the brain are responsible for seeing different types of things, such as colour, faces etc.
  • When a person experiences sight loss, these signals are lost or disrupted.
  • The brain cells responsible for vision suddenly don’t have enough to do, so start firing spontaneously.
  • People will experience hallucinations depending on what these areas are responsible for seeing.
  • The brain gradually gets used to this reduced visual stimulus, so the hallucinations gradually reduce overtime.
  • However, another deterioration vision may cause the Hallucinations to return
  • Infection such as urine or chest infections may also cause the Hallucinations to return.

How do you diagnose Charles Bonnet Syndrome?

  • There is no one test to diagnose Charles Bonnet Syndrome
  • A diagnosis is made by talking to the patient and ruling out other medical conditions that could be causing Visual Hallucinations
  • “If a person has vision loss and they’re experiencing simple or complex hallucinations and don’t have signs of dementia or mental illness, they probably have Charles Bonnet syndrome”. (NHS, 2018)

How do you treat Charles Bonnet Syndrome?

  • There is currently no cure for Charles Bonnet Syndrome
  • Gaining reassurance that the Hallucinations are caused by sight loss and not a mental illness can help people cope better.
  • Talking about CBS with family/friends, GP or Ophthalmologists can help.
  • CBS isn’t a mental illness but professionals working in mental health have experience in helping people cope with hallucinations.
  • Esme’s Umbrella recommends the following self-help techniques (Potts, n.d.)
    • if sitting, try standing up and walking round the room. If standing, try sitting.
    • Walk into another room or another part of the room.
    • Turn your head slowly to one side and then the other. Dip your head to each shoulder in turn.
    • Stare straight at the hallucination.
    • Change whatever it is you are doing at that moment – turn off/turn on the television/radio/music.
    • Other strategies target the brain regions involved in hallucinations. These include:
    • Changing light level in the room. It might be the dim light that is causing the hallucinations. If so, turn on a brighter light – or vice versa.
    • Blink your eyes once or twice.
    • A specific eye-movement exercise. When the hallucination starts, look from left to right about once every second for 15 seconds without moving your head. If the hallucination continues, have a rest for a few seconds and then repeat the eye movements. You may need four or five repeats of the eye movements to have an effect but there is no point in continuing beyond this if there is no benefit.
    • Shine a torch upwards in front of the eyes – NOT INTO THE EYES – and the light stimulates the cone cells, so the brain switches off the hallucination.
  • Some medications used to treat Epilepsy, Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease have been effective for some people, but these may also come with serious side effects.

Further Reading

Blind Persons TV Licence Concession

Blind Persons TV Licence Concession

As of the 1 August 2020, the BBC scrapped free TV licences for the over 75s unless they receive pension credit. However, you may be able to apply for the Blind Persons TV Licence Concession.

What reductions are available?

You can get a Free TV licence if:-

  • You are over 75 and get pension credit
  • You are over 75, and regardless of if you get pension credit you live in a care home that has an ARC (Accommodation for Residential Care Licence), you need to speak to the care home administrator to see if this applies to you.

You can get a 50% reduction in the cost of a TV Licence if

  • You or someone you live with is Blind/Severely sight impaired regardless of their age.

You don’t need a TV licence if:-

  • You receive TV signals by a digital receiver that can only play sound and not display a picture.

Blind Persons TV Licence Concession

You are eligible for a 50% reduction in the cost of your TV Licence, If you or someone you live with is registered Blind or Severely Sight Impaired. For a Colour TV that’s £78.75 and for a Black and White TV it is £26.50 (as 5 August 2020).

How to apply

To apply for the Blind Persons TV Licence concession you can contact TV Licensing on 0300 790 6130 or visit their website at https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/for-your-home/blindseverely-sight-impaired-aud5

When you first apply for the Blind person concession, you will need to provide proof that you are Blind or Severely Sight Impaired, this can be either a copy of:-

  • Your CVI (Certificate of Visual Impairment) or BD8 Certificate
  • A certificate or document issued by a Local Authority that shows you are registered as blind (severely sight impaired)
  • certificate from an Ophthalmologist (eye surgeon), stating that you are blind (severely sight impaired

Sight airedale is unable to provide you with proof of your visual impairment. Your GP (they may charge for this) or Hospital should be able to provide you with evidence of your visual status.

If the Blind Person is not the licence payer.

If the Blind person is not the licence payer, you will need to transfer the TV licence into their name, assuming they are over 18 for more information on how to do this visit the TV Licensing website or call them on 0300 790 6130. You will need to have your current TV licence number available.

How to get a refund

If you are currently paying for a full TV licence, you can apply for a refund from the date that you became registered Blind or April 2000 which is when the scheme started. You will need to be able to show that you were registered blind at the time you purchased the licence.

Turn on AmazonSmile in the Amazon App

Turn on Amazon Smile in the Amazon app.

You can now support sight airedale through amazon smile by using the amazon app on your iPhone or android phone. 

  1. Load the Amazon shopping app
  2. Choose the main menu
  3. Choose settings
  4. Choose Amazon smile
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts

If you’re not already giving to us via amazon.smile visit https://www.smile.amazon.co.uk/ch/1080245-0 When you shop at smile.amazon.co.uk 0.5% of your purchase will go to support sight airedale. If you forget, Amazon will remind you.

Covid-19 Scams

Don’t fall for Covid-19 Scams

Trading standards have launched the Friends Against Scams scheme to raise awareness of Covid-19 scams. You can learn more by visiting Beware Of COVID-19 Scams.

Be aware of people offering or selling

  • Virus Testing Kits – These are only offered by the NHS
  • Vaccines or miracle cures – there is currently no vaccine or cure
  • Overpriced or fake goods to protect yourself from coronavirus such as anti-bacterial products
  • Shopping or medication collection services
  • Home cleaning services.
Our Covid-19 Update

Covid-19 Update

We hope you are all staying safe during this time, we’re both working from home, so the office is closed to callers, but we are still answering the phones. Our helpline hours remain the same from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm Monday to Thursday.

Continue reading “Covid-19 Update”