Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is a form of dementia that causes atrophy of the back part of the brain, resulting in the progressive disruption of visual processing, and eventually other symptoms of dementia. Currently, it is unknown whether PCA is a type of Alzheimer’s disease or is in fact its own unique type of dementia. PCA usually affects people at an earlier age with symptoms often experienced in people in their mid-50’s or early 60’s.
Because the posterior or the region in the back of the brain is responsible for visual processing, vision problems are often the first symptoms of PCA. Early symptoms include difficulty reading, blurred vision, light sensitivity, problems with depth perception, and trouble navigating through space. Additional symptoms include apraxia (a disorder of movement planning), hallucinations, and visual agnosia (an object recognition disorder). Depending on the area of the brain damaged, symptoms may be related to sight, recognizing objects, or other visual tasks.
PCA patients are often initially misdiagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression. This could be a result of them being aware of their symptoms and sadness in dealing with their limitations. For these clients, early stage programming can be helpful in providing them with a group of those with the shared experience of loss of abilities. As their disease progresses and other areas of the brain become increasingly affected, those with PCA often follow a similar path as those with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. However, they may need additional supports due to the likely vision changes caused by PCA. Because this type of dementia is so rare, consistent diagnostic criteria have not even been developed. Expanded research is needed in this area in order to better identify, assist, and meet the needs of those affected with this unique disease.
For more information or resources regarding posterior cortical atrophy and other dementias, contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 800.272.3900 or visit alz.org/Dayton.
Posterior Cortical Atrophy, Alz.org, retrieved 9/27/201 http://www.alz.org/dementia/posterior-cortical-atrophy.asp
Crutch, Sebastian J.; Manja Lehmann; Jonathan M. Schott; Gil D. Rabinovici; Martin N. Rossor; Nick C. Fox (February 2012). “Posterior Cortical Atrophy”. The Lancet Neurology. 11 (2): 170–178