Posterior cortical atrophy


Posterior cortical atrophy is a rare, degenerative brain and nervous system (neurological) syndrome that results in gradually declining vision. Common symptoms include difficulties with reading, judging distances, and recognizing objects and familiar faces.

This condition may eventually cause your memory and thinking abilities (cognitive skills) to decline. Posterior cortical atrophy may be due to Alzheimer's disease, Lewy body dementia or other neurological conditions.


To diagnose posterior cortical atrophy, your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms, including vision difficulties, and conduct a physical examination and a neurological examination.

Your doctor may order several tests to help diagnose your condition and exclude other conditions that may cause similar symptoms, including:

  • Mental status and neuropsychological tests. Your doctor will ask you questions and conduct tests to assess your cognitive skills. You may have psychiatric assessments to test for depression or other mental illnesses.
  • Blood tests. Your blood may be tested for vitamin deficiency, thyroid disorders and other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Ophthalmology examination. Your doctor will conduct a vision test to determine whether another condition is causing your vision symptoms.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI machine uses powerful radio waves and a magnetic field to create a 3-D view of your brain. In this test, your doctor can view abnormalities in your brain that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Positive emission tomography (PET) or single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT). In these tests, a doctor injects a small amount of radioactive material and places emission detectors on your brain. PET provides visual images of brain activity. SPECT measures blood flow to various regions of your brain.


Posterior cortical atrophy can't be cured, but your doctor can help you manage your condition. Treatment options include:

  • Medications. Your doctor may give you medications to treat symptoms, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Physical, occupational or cognitive therapy. These therapies may help you regain or retain skills that are affected by posterior cortical atrophy.

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