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.

The problems caused by PCA can vary from person to person and can change over time.

People may have problems with:

  • Vision Things may appear to have an unusual colour, or to move when they are still. A black object can look like a hole. People may still see an image of an object after looking away, or not be able to see more than one object at a time. They may not always be able to see what is right in front of them and may bump into things.
  • Reading Losing the place on a page or missing out lines. This can also affect everyday tasks like putting in a PIN on a cash machine.
  • Judging distances and depths Crossing roads and using escalators or stairs can become difficult. A person may reach out to grasp an object but miss it.
  • Recognition Problems recognising objects or faces, especially when they’re not in plain sight.
  • Light sensitivity Finding bright light uncomfortable, including glare from shiny surfaces.
  • Coordination Problems with dressing and using objects like kitchen utensils and remote controls.
  • Thinking skills Finding spelling or simple calculations hard.
  • Mood Some people become low in mood, irritable or anxious, or may lose interest in things.

In PCA, the damage spreads through the brain over time. Eventually, a person’s memory, speech and problem-solving skills will be affected. As time passes, people will need more support in their daily life and help to look after themselves. This often takes several years, but each person’s experience is different.

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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