Posterior Cortical Atrophy

What is Posterior Cortical Atrophy?

Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) refers to progressive degeneration of the outer layer of the brain (cortex). A possible variant of Alzheimer‘s disease, PCA may affect anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s, although there are no definitive stats available to confirm the connection.

What are the Symptoms of Posterior Cortical Atrophy?

No standard diagnostic process exists for determining if someone has PCA. Consequently, it is often undetected or lumped in with symptoms of dementia or other conditions. PCA is frequently misdiagnosed since patients typically go to an eye doctor after experiencing vision-related symptoms and a condition initiating in the brain isn’t usually on the radar.

Possible symptoms include:

  • Progressive difficulty with vision
  • Trouble judging distances
  • Difficulty telling the difference between moving and stationary objects
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty with math or spelling
  • Anxiety
  • Memory issues (in later stages)

How is Posterior Cortical Atrophy Treated?

There are no specific treatment options available for PCA and nothing that’s known to be able to stop the progression of related symptoms. While there is no conclusive evidence to confirm it, there’s speculation drugs used to minimize Alzheimer’s symptoms may reduce effects of PCA.

Some people with PCA symptoms may respond well to:

  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors used to treat Alzheimer’s
  • Antidepressant medication (for anxiety or mood symptoms of PCA)

PCA causes changes in the brain similar to what happens with Alzheimer’s disease. This is why there is a suspected connection between the two conditions, although a different part of the brain is affected. There is no evidence to suggest AD is a contributing factor to the development or onset of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The average onset age of PCA is about ten years earlier than the average onset age of 65 for Alzheimer’s disease.

Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
August 29, 2017
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