A Complete Guide to Post Cortical Atrophy: What You Need to Know

Post Cortical Atrophy

Post cortical atrophy (PCA), also called Benson's syndrome, is a rare disease that is linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Some research refers to PCA as a variant of Alzheimer's disease as well as a rare form of dementia that affects vision. The disease develops from a progressive deterioration of the posterior or back part of the brain cortex (outer layer of the brain).

This area of the brain regulates the processing of visual information such as judging distance, telling shapes of objects, and recognizing familiar faces. However, a distinct difference between PCA and Alzheimer's is PCA commonly occurs between ages 50 and 65 whereas the average age of Alzheimer's onset is age 65.

At Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center, we offer an array of services designed to provide support and stimulating programs to those living with Alzheimer's, dementia, post cortical atrophy, and other memory-related conditions. Let's take a closer look at PCA to learn more about the condition. And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to the team at Long Island Alzheimer's & Dementia Center today. 

A Closer Look at Post Cortical Atrophy

It's unknown whether PCA is an actual unique stand-alone disease or is a variant type of Alzheimer's disease. Many people who suffer from PCA have brains that show neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques. These changes are similar to what is demonstrated in patients with Alzheimer's disease — but in a different part of the brain. 

Others who suffer from posterior cortical atrophy may have brain changes that resemble Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or Lewy body dementia. The majority of Alzheimer's disease cases occur in those who are 65 and older; while PCA regularly occurs in those between 50 and 65.

What Causes Post Cortical Atrophy?

The exact cause of PCA remains unknown. It is sometimes called a visual form of Alzheimer’s because researchers believe Alzheimer's disease is an underlying cause. They arrive at this conclusion because Alzheimer's and PCA seem to have the "same disease process" yet are "very different" in terms of how the brain is affected. 

For example, the early symptoms are different. Alzheimer’s disease usually affects memory first while PCA often affects vision and perception first. The age of onset of PCA and Alzheimer's are also vastly different Dementia with Lewy Bodies is also thought to be a cause of PCA.

Common Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms vary from patient to patient but the most common symptoms are consistent with damage to the posterior cortex. The first symptoms tend to occur in those who are in their mid-50s or early 60. Unfortunately, the first signs of PCA are often so subtle that it may take some time for a formal diagnosis to be made. These symptoms include vision problems due to the brain's inability to accurately interpret the information the eyes see as well as literacy problems. 

Visual Problems

  • Trouble recognizing faces of familiar people or objects in pictures
  • Difficulty judging speed or how far away an object is
  • Stationary objects may appear as if they are moving
  • Difficulty reading text without skipping lines
  • Inability telling the difference between two shades of color

Literacy Problems

  • The trouble with mathematical calculations
  • Difficulty with writing or typing
  • Difficulty remembering the exact spelling of words
  • Difficulty remembering the names of a particular letter, number, or shape

People living with PCA may also experience difficulty understanding speech or using certain tools, e.g., a pair of scissors. Late-stage PCA can also result in a decline of cognitive abilities such as thinking and memory.

Diagnosing Posterior Cortical Atrophy

Trouble identifying a clear cause of post cortical atrophy makes it difficult to diagnose and treat. There is also no specific diagnostic test for PCA. However, doctors may conduct various tests to try and rule out other brain diseases or conditions. 

These tests may include a physical exam, comprehensive eye exam, assessment of thinking and reasoning abilities, blood tests, and brain imaging tests such as MRI. Evidence of posterior cortical shrinkage due to loss of brain cell loss may be visible on a brain scan.

Treatment Options for PCA

Unfortunately, there is no particular treatment or cure for post cortical atrophy. Your doctor can help you manage the condition by prescribing medications to treat secondary symptoms such as anxiety or depression. Physical, cognitive, or occupational therapy can be used to help retain or restore your skills that are affected by PCA, which is where Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center comes in. 

Long Island Alzheimer's & Dementia Center Can Help

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, post cortical atrophy, or any other memory-related condition, Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center can help. We offer a range of therapies for those living with Alzheimer's disease, PCA, and dementia.

Contact Long Island Alzheimer's & Dementia Center today to learn more about how we can help.