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Posterior Cortical Atrophy: Attack from Behind--Plaques, Tangles, & Vision

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Because the changes to the brain are very similar to those of Alzheimer's Disease, Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) is often considered as an atypical form of Alzheimer's. As a variant, it is considered a visual form of Alzheimer's because the atrophy occurs in the back--or posterior--part of the brain where vision and visual impairment controls reside. Also like Alzheimer's Disease, PCA is caused by the abnormal build-up of plaques and tangles in the brain, but may also be caused by Lewy Bodies or Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease--both of which are fatal.


The first symptoms of impairment are typically referred to an optometrist or ophthalmologist because the person starts having problems with eyesight. The actual cause, however, is that PCA is causing the problems through atrophy of the posterior brain. The atrophy presents by the person being incrementally unable to properly interpret and process sensory perception. These may include such symptoms as:

  • Blurred vision

  • Hypersensitivity to light

  • Double vision

  • loss of depth perception

As Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) becomes more severe, symptoms include improperly recognizing or attributing familiar objects and getting lost when in familiar surroundings. Eventually, PCA may progress into much more marked physical symptoms, including jerky movements of arms and legs and/or seizures.


Like most dementia-type disorders, there is no cure for PCA; however, pharmaceutical therapies are available to address/mitigate the severity of symptoms.


Lists in this article adapted from Earlstein, F. (2016). Dementia Facts & Information. NRB Publishing: Nevada.

For more resources and references on Posterior Cortical Atrophy, see the following:



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