19 April 2023

BBC Sounds episode highlights visual symptoms of posterior cortical atrophy

The podcast episode features a woman with the neurodegenerative condition affecting visual processing and perception.

You or your patients may have listened to the BBC Sounds series called Dementia: Unexpected Stories of the Mind in which one of the episodes features a woman called Susan who has a rare neurodegenerative condition called posterior cortical atrophy (PCA). 

The episode gives a good understanding of what the condition is, what the symptoms are, and what it is like to live with it. Sue describes herself as “a bit wobbly” and explains, when trying to pick up a cup of tea; “It is sometimes difficult to find the handle, I sometimes go round and round and round, and I do it by feel really, because I can’t necessarily see where the handle is.” She initially had a problem judging distances when driving and knew there was something wrong, but it took about two years for her to get a confirmed diagnosis of PCA. 

When someone has PCA, although it seems that though a patient might have a problem with their eyes, the programme's presenter, Jules Montague, describes it as "not eye sight loss, but brain sight loss". 

Dr Paramdeep Bilkhu MCOptom, Clinical Adviser at the College explains more about PCA; "Posterior cortical atrophy is a neurodegenerative condition that causes progressive decline in visual processing and perception. This podcast gives a great insight into the lived experience of the condition. 

“As Susan explains in the podcast, it can result in unusual visual experiences, such as finding it easier to read smaller fonts than larger ones. It can be difficult to diagnose, as Susan mentions too, and unfortunately, this experience is often slow. 

“Your optometrist will help you if you are having issues with your vision or eye health and are concerned that you share some of the symptoms described by Susan. While your optometrist may not be in a position to diagnose PCA, if they suspect it, they will be able to refer you for further investigation.”

Related further reading

It is rare for respiratory viruses to cause eye infections, writes Kim Thomas, but they may use the eye as a portal of entry. And what is the mechanism behind their travel to the respiratory system?

How do clinicians choose between generic and branded drugs, balancing the need for patient safety against cost? Kathy Oxtoby takes a look.

The College’s Clinical Editor, Jane Veys MCOptom, on the gaps that exist in practice and between people