Bob Dylan was prescient when he foresaw the shift in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. However, it seems, the same cannot be said for the status of Charles Bonnet syndrome.

Despite countless papers published on CBS in diverse health and medical journals over decades, it appears that the word is not adequately reaching direct health service providers. Regular accounts from family members – in Australia and abroad - report frustration and surprise that doctors and allied health (who oversee the well-being of their loved one) are often unfamiliar with CBS.

This state of affairs is illustrated in a soon to be published clinical paper from the Journal of Emergency Nursing. It reports on a case where an 85 year old woman living with glaucoma presented at an emergency department reporting unusual and distressing visual experiences: namely, seeing a male and female figure and swarms of snakes within her home.

The author of the paper, Assistant Professor Lynn Wiles, of the School of Nursing, made the following comment in relation to the case:

“Although CBS has been documented in the geriatric, neurologic, psychiatric, and ophthalmologic literature, none of the health care providers at the receiving emergency department was aware of this condition.”


And herein lies the problem. Despite emerging CBS awareness campaigns and clinical guidelines being established, it seems that the information is not filtering down to front line health service providers at hospitals, medical clinics and aged care facilities.



 (Above: This graphic image courtesy of Brookes’ novel, A Thousand Coloured Castles, depicts both the particular situation of the 85 yr old woman and the plight of CBS in general.)


Perhaps, like the civil rights movement that so moved Dylan, it calls for a ground swell of support from the lay public (backed by politicians and other prominent figures) to lift the medical veil that has hidden CBS for way too long. It is high time that there was a medical and health care system that is knowledgeable of, and responsive to, those affected by CBS.