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Posterior Cortical Atrophy

Overview

Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), also called Benson’s syndrome, is a degenerative brain and nervous system syndrome. If left untreated, PCA can affect your vision permanently. It can also cause your memory and thinking abilities (cognitive skills) to decline. 

What is posterior cortical atrophy?

Posterior cortical atrophy refers to progressive and gradual degeneration of the cortex (the outer layer of the brain) in the part of the brain located in the posterior part or  back of the head. This part of brain is responsible for processing information from your eyes. Although Alzheimer’s disease is usually the common cause, other neurological conditions like Lewy Body dementia and other neurological diseases can also lead to posterior cortical atrophy.In rare cases, neurological conditions such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and corticobasal syndrome can also cause posterior cortical atrophy.

Posterior cortical atrophy is also known as a visual-spatial or visual-variant Alzheimer’s disease. However, the symptoms of both posterior cortical atrophy and Alzheimer’s disease can be completely different.

Symptoms of posterior cortical atrophy

The most common symptom of posterior cortical atrophy is vision problems. These visual problems may include,

  • Objects may appear to you in unusual colors or distorted shapes
  • You may experience trouble recognizing objects
  • The depth and surface of objects may look different to you; for instance, a tiny puddle of water may look like a large hole to you
  • You may experience trouble seeing more than one object at the same time

Other symptoms include

  • Difficulty reading books, for instance, missing out on lines, jumbling of letters, trouble reading certain fonts
  • Troubled sense of direction
  • Difficulty with bright lights or shiny surfaces

Some patients also experience hallucinations, while other symptoms may include difficulty in spelling or performing mathematical calculations. In addirion, many people with posterior cortical atrophy experience anxiety and memory can be affected in later stage

When to see a doctor?

If you start experiencing the aforementioned symptoms or any issues concerning your vision, you must consult with a specialist. An early diagnosis and proper treatment can relieve some of your symptoms.

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What are the risk factors associated with posterior cortical atrophy?

In the case of posterior cortical atrophy, it is not clear what affects the posterior part of the brain, However, doctors believe that people’s risk of developing posterior cortical atrophy is similar to other forms of dementia.

The common risk factors that can increase your chances of developing posterior cortical atrophy include the following:

  • Age
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Environmental factors
  • Family history of posterior cortical atrophy or other types of neurological disorders
  • Overall health

What are the treatment options for posterior cortical atrophy?

Depending on the cause and severity of posterior cortical atrophy, your doctor may recommend a treatment plan.

If Alzheimer’s disease is the cause of your posterior cortical atrophy, the doctor may recommend a medication known as cholinesterase inhibitors. These medications work by making your brain cells communicate with one another. Although the medication may improve your symptoms temporarily, it may not stop your posterior cortical atrophy from worsening.

Some people may notice a visible difference with these medications, while others may see no effects.

Suppose you have posterior cortical atrophy and dementia with Lewy bodies. In that case, you may benefit from treatment options that help with your movement problems. For this, the doctor may recommend a drug known as levodopa. It is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and in some cases dementia with Lewy bodies.

If your symptoms involve anxiety or depression, your doctor may recommend drug or non-drug treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the standard treatment options for depression and anxiety in posterior cortical atrophy. The therapy will allow you to talk about your worries and concerns with your therapist.

Furthermore, the doctor may even recommend antidepressant drugs, with or without cognitive behavioral therapy.

Conclusion

Posterior cortical atrophy is a rare neurological disorder. Since the symptoms of posterior cortical atrophy may look similar to other neurological diseases, it is critical to consult with a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the life expectancy of someone suffering from posterior cortical atrophy?

Since posterior cortical atrophy is a progressive disorder, its prognosis is poor. Doctors believe the life expectancy of posterior cortical atrophy after the diagnosis is similar to that of Alzheimer’s disease, 8 to 12 years.

2. How does posterior cortical atrophy progress?

The symptoms of posterior cortical atrophy usually progress over a brief period. However, you may also experience a decline in your cognitive abilities, along with visual impairment.

3. Can posterior cortical atrophy be reversed?

There is no specific treatment for posterior cortical atrophy yet. However, your doctor may recommend medications that will help ease some of your symptoms but not reverse the effects of posterior cortical atrophy.

4. How common is posterior cortical atrophy?

Posterior cortical atrophy is a rare form of dementia. There are no exact numbers of how many people around the world have been affected by it. However, people who have Alzheimer’s disease may develop posterior cortical atrophy symptoms too.

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