All of the body’s organs, including the eyes, rely on the flow of oxygen-rich blood to function properly.
Nerves and tissues provide impulses to the brain, which generate a visual image. The retina, located in the back of the eye, is one of these important tissues.
The retina contains small and large arteries and veins that carry blood to and from the heart, and it is responsible for sending visual signals to the brain.
A blockage in the retina’s blood vessels can permanently impair vision and lead to blindness.
A clot or narrowing of the retina’s blood vessels causes an eye stroke, which is also known as retinal artery occlusion. The blood flow to the retina is disrupted, which can lead to permanent retinal damage and loss of vision if left untreated.
What is it?
During an eye stroke, the veins and arteries of the retina stop functioning properly. A clot or a narrowing of the blood artery might obstruct them.
The retinas of the eye lose their blood supply in the same way as blood to the brain is diminished or cut off during a cerebral stroke. Swelling can occur if blood and fluid leak into the retina. The retinas, as well as a person’s eyesight, can be destroyed very quickly.
Depending on which blood artery is affected, there are various different types of eye strokes:
- Branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO): The retina’s small veins become blocked.
- Branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO): The retina’s small arteries become blocked.
- Central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO): The retina’s central artery becomes blocked.
- Central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO): The retina’s main vein becomes blocked.
An eye stroke may be more common in certain people than in others. The risk factors are the same as for a typical stroke.
Those with a personal or family history of the following conditions are at an increased risk:
- coronary heart disease
- diabetes or a family history of diabetes
- atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the arteries
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- previous heart attack or stroke
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, people in their 60s, particularly men, are at the greatest risk of having an eye stroke.
The majority of eye strokes are painless. The initial indication of an eye stroke is generally an abrupt change in vision or loss of vision in one eye.
Vision loss might impact the whole eye or be more subtle. Some people just lose their peripheral vision, while others develop blind patches or “floaters.” It’s also possible to have blurry or distorted vision. Mild vision alterations might begin, then worsen over the course of many hours or days.
A cerebral stroke, which disrupts blood flow to the brain, can result in visual loss or changes that occur suddenly. As a result, any unexpected changes in eyesight need immediate medical intervention.
The longer a stroke goes untreated, the more likely the organs involved may be irreversibly damaged.
It’s a medical emergency when you lose your vision suddenly.
Doctors may need to do tests to view the retina of the eye to detect an eye stroke. These may include the following:
- Slit-lamp examination, which examines the interior of the eyes with eye drops, a specific light, and a microscope.
- Dilating the eyes with drops to see the retina more easily.
- Vision tests, such as reading eye charts and checking side or peripheral vision.
- Using a dye and a camera to take pictures of the retina, known as fluorescein angiography. The dye is injected via the arm and allows the doctor to see the retina’s veins and arteries more clearly.
- Using a puff of air to check the pressure within the eye.
These tests are painless and are conducted by an ophthalmologist, or eye doctor.
To assist reduce retinal damage, treatment for an eye stroke should be done as soon as possible. There are several treatment options available, including:
- widening the arteries in the retina with an inhaled gas
- a procedure that helps move the clot away from the retina
- medicines that dissolve blood clots
People may also require long-term follow-up therapy for heart disease or blood vessel disorders that led to the eye stroke.
Having heart disease testing is an important element of preventing an eye stroke. This might involve routine cholesterol and blood pressure readings, as well as discussions about other heart disease risk factors such family history, nutrition, and lifestyle.
Likelihood factors for heart disease play a role in the risk of eye strokes. According to a report published in the journal Eye, 64% of people who had an eye stroke discovered at least one new, undetected heart disease risk factor. High cholesterol was the most significant factor in these people’s lives.
People should, in general, do the following to keep their blood vessels healthy and prevent eye stroke:
- avoid or quit smoking
- work with a doctor to manage other health conditions, such as diabetes
- get regular exercise; the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 2.5 hours a week
- eat a heart-healthy diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats
- work with a dietician, as recommended for some individuals
People who have had an eye stroke may have a wide outlook of long-term outcomes. It depends on the severity of the stroke, the treatment’s efficacy, and the affected arteries or veins.
According to the study published in the journal Eye, 80% of people who had an eye stroke had substantial vision loss of 20/400 or worse.
In certain situations, a person’s eyesight may be restored over time. According to a research published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, many people’s visual loss can improve depending on the type of eye stroke they experienced.
According to the scientists, determining the type of eye stroke is important in determining how well a person can see thereafter.
A heart-healthy lifestyle is beneficial to more than just the heart. It can boost general health and lower the chance of issues like eye stroke and vision loss.