Eye Stroke Symptoms and Treatment Options

The word ‘stroke’ is rather terrifying, and the term ‘eye stroke’ also denotes a dangerous condition that can result in sudden vision loss. In this article, we are going to cover what symptoms occur in case of eye stroke, and what treatment options there are available.

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What is an eye stroke?

The scientific name of the disease is retinal artery occlusion. It occurs when blood flow to the eye retina is blocked.

The retina is a thin tissue found in the back of the eye. Any tissue needs oxygen and nutrients to function, and the retina is no exception. There are many blood vessels penetrating the retina, and having enough blood supply is crucial for maintaining the ability to see. Nerves found in the eye also require nutrients and oxygen delivered by blood, and vision depends on the availability of blood just like any other function.

If there is a clot or a blood vessel in the retina is narrowed, an eye stroke occurs. Interruption of blood flow to the eye can and should be treated; otherwise it can result in blindness.

Why do eye strokes occur?

As it’s already been mentioned, blood clots are what leads to an eye stroke. The clot can appear right in a retina blood vessel or be brought there by the blood flow from other parts of the body. If there are plaques of fat in the bloodstream (atherosclerosis), one of them can get into narrow vessels and block them. That is why the conditions that can result in an eye stroke include hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood cholesterol levels. There are other risk factors, such as being a male, suffering from kidney diseases, smoking, age (those aged forty and older are more likely to experience an eye stroke), taking birth control pills, etc.

What about the symptoms?

The key symptom is a sudden change in vision. Most people do not feel any pain when an eye stroke occurs, so it is the ability to see that should be used as a marker.

In most cases, only one eye is affected. Among common symptoms are the following:

  • Blurry vision. If your vision is distorted, especially if it’s only one eye with which there is something wrong, you should visit a doctor ASAP, because sudden distortion of vision can indicate an eye stroke, which, if left untreated, can result in permanent damage to the eye.
  • Partial or complete loss of vision. If you cannot see with some part of your eye, be it a side or some other spot, it could mean a blood vessel is blocked. In some people, only peripheral vision is affected.
    It is worthy of note that vision can change gradually, starting from mild blurring and progressing into significant blind spots.

What treatment can be used?

Treatment of eye strokes comprises several aspects.

First, a medicine designed to dissolve blood clots is used. The primary goal of a doctor trying to prevent the eye from further damaging is to eliminate the cause of blockage. To do it, special drugs can be used, as well as massaging. The medications used may include drugs for glaucoma, such as acetazolamide.

However, taking a pill is not the only thing you will undergo. In order to reduce pressure in the eye, a doctor can use a special needle to remove some of the fluid from it. It is called paracentesis.

Besides, widening of arteries is another important aspect of treating eye strokes. You can be offered to inhale carbon dioxide mixed with oxygen: these gases can help increase blood flow to the eye and widen arteries to let blood bring oxygen and nutrients to the retina again.

As far as eye stroke treatment is concerned, it is time that matters a lot. If the blood flow is restored within 90-100 minutes, you are likely to avoid significant damage to the retina. However, failing to get medical assistance within 4 hours can lead to permanent vision damage.

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