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Vision Loss After Stroke – FAQ

How Common Is Vision Loss After a Stroke?

According to stroke.org, about one-third of stroke survivors suffer from vision loss. Another third experience some form of vision problem, such as light sensitivity, dry eye, or visual processing dysfunction. The type of problem depends on the area of the brain that sustained stroke-related damage. Vision-related issues may sometimes diminish after a stroke, but can also be permanent.

How Does a Stroke Affect Vision?

Different areas in the brain control different functions. Therefore, the effects of a stroke depend on which part of the brain was injured. Vision problems occur when an area that controls vision or transmits visual information is damaged.

Usually, only one half of the brain suffers during a stroke. However, the optical nerves of both eyes run through the brain together; therefore, vision problems typically affect both eyes.

What Are the Common Vision Problems After a Stroke?

Some of the common vision-related problems are:

  • Visual field loss: side vision loss (hemianopsia) of half of your visual field, to your right or left
  • Visual neglect: a lack of response to stimuli in one half of your visual field.
  • Dry eye
  • Eye movement control issues
  • Loss of color vision
  • Double vision (diplopia)
  • Loss of depth perception
  • A droopy eyelid (ptosis)
  • Decreased vision that is not helped by regular glasses.

What Visual or Eye Symptoms Should I Lookout For?

People who’ve had a stroke often feel there is something wrong, but are not sure what it is. Ask the following questions:

  • Do you bump into things, particularly in a busy environment, like the mall?
  • Do you need to turn your head to see things at your side?
  • Do you have blurry vision that does not look clear with regular glasses?
  • Do you become exhausted or annoyed when reading?
  • Do you frequently develop headaches when concentrating, i.e., while watching TV, reading, playing cards?
  • Do you feel visual confusion when reading because the words or letters seem to overlap?
  • Do you have difficulties recognizing familiar people?
  • Is your balance unstable?
  • Do you feel that things are not where you think they are in the room?
  • Does bright light irritate you?

Any of these may signal some degree of vision loss, and we recommend you consult an optometrist for a thorough eye exam.

seniors smiling 640What Causes a Stroke?

Strokes are caused by either a sudden failure of blood in an area of the brain, or can be caused by a burst blood vessel in an area of the brain. Strokes are usually related to health issues like high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and/or cigarette smoking.

How Do I Know That I Have Visual Field Loss?

Visual field loss means that you do not see things that are located on one side of your body. You may not be aware that you have visual field loss but may find yourself bumping into things or having difficulty getting around in unfamiliar surroundings. People with visual field loss also have trouble reading.

In the case of central vision loss, which is less common in stroke victims, you experience a blind spot in the center of your visual field.

A low vision optometrist can help you optimize your remaining vision and provide devices that will enable you to do the things you want to do.

What Is Hemianopsia?

Hemianopsia is a form of visual field loss that can occur after a stroke and refers to the loss of one half of the visual field. If the stroke occurred on the left side of the brain, you are missing the left side of your visual field. In some cases, only a quarter of the visual field is lost. This is called quadrantanopia.

What Are Visual Hallucinations?

In some cases, people with visual field loss occasionally see things in the missing area that aren’t there. This is called visual hallucinations.

What Is Visual Neglect?

Visual neglect means that you are not aware of, or do not react to whatever is on the stroke-affected side of the brain. This happens when the brain does not process the visual information it receives from the eyes.

People with visual neglect (agnosia) have trouble recognizing familiar faces and objects and often appear clumsy.

How Is Eye Movement Control Affected?

A stroke can impact your control over your eye movements, and it may be difficult to track a moving object. Your eyes may not move together, causing blurred or double vision.

In some cases, the eyes constantly move. The eyes jitter or wobble, making it hard to focus on something. This is referred to as nystagmus.

Senior Patient Receiving Eye Exam At Clinic, Eyesight Examinatio

What to Expect from a Low Vision Optometrist?

IALVS optometrists have undergone intensive training in treating vision loss. They will conduct a thorough low vision exam with the goal of identifying the tasks you wish to do but are no longer able to carry out.

The low vision optometrist will evaluate which devices are most suitable to maximize your remaining vision, and provide them. He/She will also lend support and understanding and give practical advice on how you can make the best of your vision.

What Are Side Vision Awareness Glasses?

Vision awareness glasses are designed to assist with side vision loss or hemianopsia. These special lenses shift the visual field to the center and help you be aware of objects on the side you do not see. Vision awareness glasses enable many people with vision loss after a stroke to drive and move comfortably in unfamiliar surroundings.

I Want to Drive. Can a Low Vision Optometrist Help?

Many people with vision loss can drive wearing special low vision glasses provided by a low vision optometrist, such as side vision awareness glasses or bioptic telescope glasses. Driving laws vary from state to state with regard to vision. You can find information on local driving laws here, or consult a low vision optometrist in your area to help you remain behind the wheel.

Is It Possible to Recover Vision after a Stroke?

As the brain recovers from the stroke, vision disturbances can get better. During the first few months following the stroke, you will likely notice an improvement. However, most people will not fully recover their vision after a stroke.

What Happens in the Body During a Stroke?

A stroke is a sudden failure in the blood supply to the brain or inside the brain. The most common type of stroke is an ischemic stroke. This occurs when an artery is blocked and blood does not reach the brain.

In some cases, a blood vessel bursts inside the brain, causing bleeding from inside. This is referred to as a hemorrhagic stroke.

How Can an IALVS Trained Low Vision Optometrist Help Me?

The International Academy of Low Vision Specialists (IALVS) trains optometrists to prescribe advanced optical or digital technology to improve eyesight for people with difficult vision problems. Additionally, some IALVS optometrists also prescribe Side Vision Awareness Glasses for stroke-related side vision loss, and others prescribe prism glasses for double vision.

If an IALVS doctor does not treat your specific visual issue, an appropriate referral will be recommended.

Where Do I Find the Nearest IALVS Trained Eye Doctor?

In the IALVS Doctor Directory, you will find a list of Low Vision optometrists according to region, or simply call 888-771-8383.

 

 

Resources

http://www.strokecenter.org/patients/stroke-diagnosis/how-a-stroke-is-diagnosed/

https://www.stroke.org.uk/effects-stroke/physical-effects-stroke/vision-problems-after-stroke

https://www.stroke.org.uk/sites/default/files/visual_problems_after_stroke.pdf

https://noravisionrehab.org/patients-caregivers/about-brain-injuries-vision/stroke-and-vision

https://novavision.com/9-facts-about-stroke-and-loss-of-vision/

https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/effects-of-stroke/physical-effects-of-stroke/physical-impact/visual-disturbances

https://strokefoundation.org.au/About-Stroke/Help-after-stroke/Stroke-resources-and-fact-sheets/Vision-loss-after-stroke-fact-sheet

https://www.verywellhealth.com/vision-changes-after-stroke-4084889

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