Anton Syndrome Explained

It can be frustrating to go about your daily life without being able to see the world around you, and people who are blind know just how this feels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that the leading cause of blindness are eye diseases related to aging, such as cataract and glaucoma. It may surprise you that there are some people who are blind but adamantly refuse to accept their blindness, as reported by MediFind.

Although it's an extremely rare condition, it has affected enough people to garner the name Anton-Babinski Syndrome (ABS), or Anton Syndrome for short. In history, there have only been 28 documented cases of ABS, as reported by IFLScience. According to a 2022 article published in StatPearls, the earliest mention of this condition was in the case of Harpaste, who was a woman that became blind and struggled with denial of her blindness during the Roman era. However, it wasn't until Gabriel Anton studied a 69-year-old milkmaid who became blind and deaf as a result of lesions in both of her temporal lobes that ABS gained its official name (per American Academy of Opthalamology). 

You may have never heard of Anton Syndrome before, or perhaps you've just learned about it recently. Hence, you may be interested in learning what causes the initial blindness and denial of blindness that accompanies ABS, and what it might be like to experience the condition. 

What causes the symptoms of Anton Syndrome?

Typically, Anton Syndrome is diagnosed by medical proof of blindness along with the existence of confabulation to compensate for vision loss, as reported by the American Academy of Opthalamology. ABS patients often claim to see visions that are not there, such as seeing objects or people that don't exist, while creating justifications for their blindness. For example, Harpaste from the Roman era would complain about the darkness in her room while frequently asking for a room change, yet refused to believe that the darkness she was seeing was a result of her blindness (per IFLScience). As explained in a 2022 article published in StatPearls, confabulation is likely an attempt by the individual to fill in the gaps of sensory input that has been lost. Additionally, they may claim that they have lost their sight due to a lack of adequate lighting. It's possible for them to put themselves in danger by denying their blindness.

The state of research on ABS is relatively scarce. However, the condition is thought to be caused by lesions in areas of the brain, including the visual cortices and corpus callosum, according to a 2007 article published in Behavioral Neurology. It was also reported in a 2017 article in Neurology Clinical Practice that one patient developed ABS because of multiple sclerosis (MS). The treatment for ABS varies depending on its unique cause. For instance, ABS that is caused by a stroke may require antiplatelet therapy (per MediFind).