When someone refers to a stroke, they’re most likely referring to an occlusion (blockage) in the arteries of the brain that causes brain cell and tissue to die. But these kinds of occlusions can actually occur elsewhere in the body. One of which is in the eyes…
Blood and oxygen are carried from the heart to your retinas by an array of delicate arteries. When these arteries become blocked off, this causes an eye stroke — which could result in the death of retina tissue and cause vision impairment or blindness.
Learn more about what can cause one of these strokes and the treatments available below.
Eye Strokes Causes
There are a variety of different conditions and complications that can affect your blood vessels and cause your arteries to become occluded. However, the most common culprits, are blood clots and a condition called atherosclerosis.
Blood clots can form directly in the retinas or make their way there from elsewhere by traversing your bloodstream. In either case, the clot can get stuck and cause poor blood flow. Atherosclerosis, on the other hand, narrows the arteries through a build-up of fatty plaque — which can then constrict the flow of blood or cut it off completely.
Other factors that may increase your risk for an eye stroke include the following:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Heart Disease
- Age (Ages 40 years and older)
- Gender (Men are more susceptible)
- Trauma to the eye
- Clotting Disorders
- Atrial Fibrillation
If any of these risk factors apply to you, and you experience any of the symptoms associated with an eye stroke, you need to get help as soon as possible.
How Do You Identify an Eye Stroke?
It’s vital that anyone who is suspected of having triggered an eye stroke is taken to the hospital immediately. But, how do you identify the beginnings of an eye stroke? Well, here are some symptoms that you may want to keep in mind:
- Sudden loss of vision (often only in one eye)
- Poor peripheral vision
- Blurry or distorted vision
- Spotted Vision
Along with these sudden vision changes, you should note a strange lack of pain. Strange as it is to use a negative symptom to try to identify a stroke, any naturally occurring change in your vision should either occur slowly or be accompanied by either numbing or stinging pain. Not so, with an Eye Stroke — which makes the lack of pain a helpful marker for identifying them.
Once you’re brought to the hospital, a doctor should walk you through a general checkup to check your eyes and record your current medical and physical condition. The doctor might also use a special instrument, called an ophthalmoscope to determine the damage to your retinas prior to recommending a specific treatment.
Following that, you’ll be asked to provide some information on any medical conditions that you might have that could affect your treatment. Like diabetes, high blood pressure, or glaucoma. If only so the doctor will be able to determine whether said conditions had caused your eye stroke and to make sure that none of the treatments will exacerbate any issues that may occur.
Eye Stroke Treatment
There are many different types of treatments available for those who have suffered from an eye stroke. What treatment you require will depend on your own unique circumstances. For example, the doctor will have to consider the damages to your retinas and whether or not giving you certain medications will do more harm than good.
Some patients are provided drugs that take care of blood clots — although this is not recommended for everyone. Others are made to undergo massage therapy — which has proven to be somewhat effective at opening up retinas.
One might also be considered for anti-vascular endothelial growth factor drugs, corticosteroids, pan-retinal photocoagulation therapy, laser treatment, or hyperbaric oxygen therapies.
Whatever your doctor believes is most appropriate should be done as soon as possible to save your vision — whether that’s partially or completely.
Final Thoughts: Eye Stroke: Causes and Treatment
An eye stroke can result in the total loss of your eyesight, and ignoring and leaving it unchecked is only going to increase that risk. If you know that you’re at risk for an Eye Stroke, you should discuss your options with a medical professional as soon as possible.
Once you’re diagnosed, there are plenty of treatments and therapies that you can try in order to improve your chances of returning your vision partially or completely. It’s just a matter of actually receiving those treatments!
- “Eye Stroke: Retinal Artery Occlusion.” WebMD, WebMD, 6 Sept. 2019, www.webmd.com/eye-health/retinal-artery-occlusion#1.