Posterior cortical atrophy

Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is a rare form of dementia that usually begins by affecting a person’s vision. It is also known as Benson’s syndrome.

Getting the right diagnosis is important so that people can get help and support. At first, people with PCA might think they have something wrong with their eyes and visit their optician. The optician may find that they have perfectly healthy eyes, or people could wrongly be given glasses that do not help them.

If you are worried about yourself or someone else who is showing signs of PCA, talk to your doctor. They can carry out tests to find out what’s causing the changes. The doctor may find that something else is the cause.

If your doctor suspects PCA or another form of dementia, they may send you to a specialist clinic. Here, a doctor will run through more detailed tests with you. These may include:

  • Questions about your symptoms and medical history.
  • Speaking to your partner or someone close to you about the problems you are having.
  • A physical check-up.
  • Activities to work out how your brain processes the information it receives from your eyes.
  • Assessments of your memory and thinking skills.

You may be offered other tests including brain scans, blood tests or sometimes a lumbar puncture. In a lumbar puncture, a needle is used to take a sample of fluid from the bottom of the spine. Abnormal levels of proteins in this fluid can indicate the presence of diseases like Alzheimer’s in the brain.

Together all these things will help a doctor decide the likely cause of your problems.

This information was written in April 2019 and is due for review in April 2021. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.

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