People with visual agnosia may be unable to recognize, draw, or recall how to use objects even with properly functioning eyesight. There are two sub-types of this condition.

Less than 1% of people with neurological conditions experience agnosia, a condition where they lose the ability to identify objects, people, or voices.

Even fewer experience visual agnosia, a type of agnosia where people cannot recognize, draw, or recall how to use objects despite normally functioning vision. This agnosia may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.

Visual agnosia is typically associated with lesions in the brain, and the exact location of any brain damage will direct the visual agnosia symptoms you experience. Two subtypes of visual agnosia with different symptoms are apperceptive and associative agnosia.

Visual agnosia is a neurological condition that prevents the recognition of shapes, colors, or objects despite normally functioning eyesight. Subtypes describe the specific kind of visual loss an individual experiences.

Individuals with apperceptive visual agnosia have difficulty perceiving the shape and form of objects. They may have a hard time copying, drawing, and matching figures. Those with associative visual agnosia cannot recall what objects are called and how they are used.

The location of any brain lesions plays a key role in determining the type of visual agnosia an individual experiences. Damage to the occipito-parietal cortex of the brain is linked with apperceptive visual agnosia, while associative agnosia is connected with damage in the bilateral inferior occipitotemporal cortex.

Other forms of visual agnosia include:

  • Prosopagnosia: being unable to recognize familiar faces (face blindness)
  • Simultanagnosia: being unable to recognize objects when they appear together, although you can recognize them on their own
  • Color agnosia: being unable to identify and distinguish colors despite normal vision abilities
  • Finger agnosia: trouble naming and differentiating among fingers
  • Agnostic alexia: being unable to recognize words visually

Depending on the cause, agnosia may be permanent or temporary. Visual agnosia may impact anyone, but many of the conditions that can contribute to it are more common in older individuals.

Symptoms of visual agnosia differ depending on the form of visual agnosia you experience.

For example, individuals with apperceptive visual agnosia may be unable to:

  • copy or draw figures
  • match shapes
  • recognize letters or shapes
  • tell when objects are oriented differently

Signs of associative visual agnosia can include being unable to:

  • recall a color, shape, or object’s name
  • remember how to use objects

Visual agnosia is frequently associated with lesions in the occipital lobe of the brain. These lesions may be due to several causes.

Visual agnosia may be related to:

Certain progressive brain diseases and developmental disorders can also disrupt the brain in ways that may cause agnosia. Examples of these conditions include:

Your doctor may perform various simple tests to help determine if you have visual agnosia. These may include asking you to draw pictures of several objects, recognize written words, or demonstrate how to use an object.

In addition to performing tests focused on the different types of visual agnosia, your doctor will also need to rule out any problems with the eye that might be causing vision problems.

If you’re diagnosed with visual agnosia, your doctor may recommend scans of the head and brain to determine the extent of any damage and learn more about potential underlying causes.

There is no cure for visual agnosia. Instead, treatment will typically focus on addressing your symptoms and any underlying health issues.

Specific medical procedures or medications may be recommended if there is a treatable underlying cause. This may include surgery to remove a tumor or seizure medications to help reduce the number of seizures you experience.

Specific therapies that compensate for any impacted life skills are used for individuals with visual agnosia. Tactile and auditory ways to identify objects may be taught. Therapists may also suggest technology like screen reading technology to help with day-to-day challenges.

Despite having normally functioning eyes, individuals with visual agnosia are unable to recognize objects or their features. If you have this condition, you may not be able to recognize, draw, match, or recall how to use objects. Visual agnosia may be temporary or more permanent depending on the cause.

In addition to caring for underlying health issues, treatment focuses on therapy to improve symptoms that may be impacting your daily life. Your doctor can help recommend therapies for your specific symptoms.