Today is the first ever Charles Bonnet Awareness Day and we have partnered with Fight for Sight to award a £15,000 grant to fund important research into Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS), with support from Esme’s Umbrella.

CBS is a serious side effect of sight loss. It produces vivid, silent, visual hallucinations which range from disturbing to terrifying.

More than 100,000 people in the UK are thought to have CBS – and it could be as many as three quarters of a million – but people are not daring to confide in their GP, family or friends, because they are afraid the hallucinations herald a mental health issue.

If there is no serious memory loss nor any other diagnosed mental health issue, then the hallucinations are caused by CBS.

Currently, there is no treatment for CBS – except reassurance – which makes support for research all the more important.

The team at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne – led by Dr Greg Elder – will investigate the differences in brain activity between people whose sight loss gives them visual hallucinations and those, with the same sight loss, who do not hallucinate. The aim is to better understand the condition and discover ways to prevent the hallucinations, with the development of treatment or medication.

Thomas Pocklington Trust’s Research and Policy Director, Phil Ambler, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Fight for Sight in co-funding this valuable research with the support of Esme’s Umbrella. Charles Bonnet Syndrome affects many people with sight loss. This research is an important step in the journey to better understanding the condition and in helping those individuals.”

Judith Potts launched Esme’s Umbrella in memory of her Mother who experienced severe CBS. Judith said: “For too long, CBS has been a well-kept secret. Esme’s Umbrella is working to raise awareness of the condition with healthcare professionals and out into the community. Now – with the support of Fight for Sight and Thomas Pocklington Trust – one of the myriad of questions that surrounds CBS will have a chance to be answered by Dr Greg Elder and his team. This is a great step forward in much-needed research.”

Fight for Sight’s CEO, Michele Acton, said: “We are delighted to have established this partnership so that we can begin to tackle CBS, a severely underfunded and unrecognised condition. Little is known about the condition, which makes research like this vital.”