A RARE syndrome which affects the eyesight and causes hallucinations has been given prominence this month due to a Coronation Street character being diagnosed.

Islander Ruth Hollingshead knows just what Johnny Connor is going through — she has lived with Charles Bonnet syndrome for most of her life.

She hopes her story, and the coverage currently being given to the syndrome, will help people suffering with the symptoms to come forward and take comfort from the help that can be provided by Island charity Sight for Wight.

Ruth is a trustee and volunteer, and knows how beneficial the support can be.

She advises anyone with the symptoms to go first to their GP, but to also seek support from Sight for Wight.

In the soap opera, Johnny, played by Richard Hawley, admits to having hallucinations and seeing his late son Aidan, as well as visions of mice, cockroaches and a ginger cat as his eyesight deteriorates.

Isle of Wight County Press: Coronation Street actor Richard Hawley, who plays Johnny Connor.Coronation Street actor Richard Hawley, who plays Johnny Connor.

Ruth, 47, recognises it only too well.

Her eyesight started deteriorating when she was eight, and she registered blind at 24.

She has no central vision and has a permanent large flashing patch in the middle of her eye.

Anything that catches her visual attention can get turned by her brain into something else as a hallucination, so a rogue eyelash will become a spider, which will then run across the kitchen surface.

She said: "People see their room being on fire, and a common hallucination is to see a dead spouse back in their chair where they always sat.

"The brain fills in the gaps left by the poor eyesight, so it puts things where it thinks they should be.

"I'll see a leaf blowing and my brain makes it look like a little dog running around.

"Shadows on the pavement turn into a flight of steps, which makes it really difficult to walk properly.

"I've said hello to a few parking meters, thinking they are people, and when I go swimming, the black edge of my goggles gets turned into a person in a black swimming costume standing next to me."

Having lived with it so long, Ruth tends to do a double take, rather than finding it scary.

Some people have the symptoms for a short period until their eyesight stabilises, but Ruth has lived with it for decades.

Isle of Wight County Press: Ruth Hollingshead.Ruth Hollingshead.

Lisa Hollyhead, chief executive of Sight for Wight, said: "Charles Bonnet is a complex issue and like any eye condition the physiological affect can be extremely difficult to deal with.

"Here at Sight for Wight we have people who are living with Charles Bonnet both permanently and temporarily — talking about your own experience can really help.

"As someone born with around 12 per cent of vision myself I know getting the right help at the right time really can make a genuine difference."

Contact Sight for Wight at sightforwight.org.uk or call 522205.