Charles Bonnet syndrome


What is Charles Bonnet syndrome?

Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a condition characterized by visual hallucinations in individuals who have significant visual impairment or loss.

The syndrome is named after Charles Bonnet, an 18th-century Swiss philosopher who first described the experiences of his visually impaired grandfather.

What causes Charles Bonnet syndrome?

Charles Bonnet syndrome develops when someone of any age – including children – has lost more than 60% of their sight. This loss can be caused by eye conditions, stroke, cancer of the eye, an eye injury, diabetes, MS (multiple sclerosis) or any other condition which damages the optic nerve.

As sight diminishes, the messages which run from the retina in the eye to the visual cortex in the brain slow or stop, leaving the brain with nothing to interpret – so it creates its own images.

What are the symptoms of Charles Bonnet syndrome?

The main symptom of Charles Bonnet syndrome is visual hallucinations which are extremely vivid and entirely silent.

Everyone’s experience of Charles Bonnet syndrome is different. Hallucinations may appear frequently or infrequently; be benign or frightening and disturbing and can last seconds or minutes.

Images seen can include:

  • Simple patterns
  • Words, numbers, maps or musical notes
  • People, animals, plants, insects, rodents, reptiles, buildings, vehicles, fire or water
  • Scenes of people of different sizes
  • Groups / armies often wearing costume, such as Edwardian, military or medieval.

Are you affected by Charles Bonnet syndrome?

If you’re affected by Charles Bonnet syndrome, The Brain Charity can support you.

We are the only charity in the UK to be here for every one of the more than 600 different neurological conditions in existence. Individually, many are rare, but combined, they affect 1 in 6 people.

We provide practical help on all aspects of living with Charles Bonnet syndrome, emotional support such as counselling, phone befriending and group therapy and social activities to people with Charles Bonnet syndrome from all over the UK from our centre in Liverpool.

Looking to talk to someone?

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Phone us

Contact The Brain Charity now

Our friendly Information & Advice Officers are here to help. We endeavour to respond to all enquiries within 10 working days.

0151 298 2999

Looking to talk to someone?

  • Please tell us which neurological condition you are affected by and what you need support with.

Caring for someone with Charles Bonnet syndrome

We support carers, friends and family too

Are you a carer for or relative of someone with Charles Bonnet syndrome  It’s just as important for you to look after your own physical and mental wellbeing too.

The Brain Charity provides free support for carers, friends and family of people with any form of neurological condition, including Charles Bonnet syndrome, from anywhere in the UK.

We also run an additional carers advocacy service for all carers in Liverpool, regardless of which type of condition the person they care for has.

You don’t need to be a formal or registered carer

We can help you even if you don’t view yourself as a formal carer or claim Carer’s Allowance. Find out some of the ways we support carers below.

Other resources

The Brain Charity's library

The Brain Charity’s free public library has a range of resources on neurological conditions

Support groups

Support groups at The Brain Charity

Are you interested in setting up a Charles Bonnet syndrome support group, or do you already run one? Email to let us know.

Alternatively, you can check out our list of related support groups here.

Other charities

Esme’s Umbrella

Helpline: 020 7391 3299



RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind people)

Helpline: 0303 123 9999