Psychogenic Blindness: Eye-Poppin’ Mind-Bogglers

No need to rush for an eye checkup in case you’re seeing Tetris-like shapes or Tetriminos everywhere, even if you’re not playing it. You’re only experiencing the “Tetris Effect” and there is nothing to worry about it. So, moving on, we have another bizarre case to crack and we have to perform an eye checkup to solve it.

Here is the scenario. What if after being blind for years, you’re suddenly able to see on an occasional basis? Now you see it, now you don’t.

This is what happened to a woman in Germany, whom they called as B.T. At her 20s, she had gone blind because of an accident. In clinical terms, she suffered from cortical blindness. She was also diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder.

After a psychotherapy session with Dr. Bruno Waldvogel in Munich, one of her ten personalities was able to read a few words in a magazine’s title page. Her doctors later found out that she was only blind psychologically or she has what is called psychogenic blindness.

What is psychogenic blindness?

Instead of defining it, let us differentiate an organic or clinically blind person vs. someone with psychogenic blindness. This is a type of eye checkup you can absolutely do at home. However, an eye doctor or an ophthalmologist has the final say on this subject matter.

According to the study conducted by Dr. Neil R. Miller, M.D., entitled “Neuro-Opthalmologic Manifestations of Psychogenic Disease”, here are ways to test the visual acuity loss of a patient:

  • Look directly at the person

A person with organic blindness will look straight at you while a psychogenic blind person will often look at other direction.

  • Using a rotating optokinetic drum:

 

Rotate the drum in front of the patient who has both eyes open. Note that in this experiment only one eye has a problem. Cover the unaffected eye with the palm of the hand immediately. The eye that has psychogenic blindness continues to show a jerk nystagmus.

What is nystagmus? Based on the American Optometric Association’s definition, it is a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements, often resulting in reduced vision.

  • Using a mirror:

Place a large mirror in front of the patient and ask him to look ahead directly. Twist the mirror back and forth. The patient will show a nystagmoid movement in the eyes because they cannot avoid following the moving reflection of the mirror.

  • Fingertip touching:

Instruct the patient to touch the tips of their point fingers. This is not a vision acuity test but rather it tests the proprioception of the patient. An organic blind person can easily do this whereas someone with psychogenic blindness cannot.

  • Signing a signature:

Same as the fingertip touching test, a person with psychogenic blindness will have difficulty doing this and may produce a “doodled” signature. Otherwise, he can do this without difficulty.

  • Pupil reaction:

The pupils of a psychogenic blinded person still react to light simulation whereas a naturally blind person must not be affected.

  • Bonus trivia: Patients claiming complete or nearly complete blindness often wear sunglasses. Now you know where sunglasses for sale in the Philippines come in handy in other “ways”.

What happened to B.T.? Based on an article in nymag.com, “…she almost entirely regained her ability to see.” Thanks to the therapy she went through.

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