A stroke is an event that occurs when blood flow somewhere in the body becomes obstructed. We usually think of stroke as something that affects the brain. However, there is such a thing as blood flow blockage in the eye. A block, or occlusion, in the eye may affect the optic nerve, retina, or other vital structure, presenting a risk to vision. Here, we discuss the types of occlusion that may occur and what may be done to correct the blockage.
Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO)
This type of occlusion presents without pain. What a patient normally experiences is a dramatic and sudden loss of vision in one eye. However, studies do indicate that vision loss “episodes” referred to as amaurosis fugax may precede this major event. There is also evidence that central retinal artery occlusion may occur in conjunction with high blood pressure and carotid artery disease, diabetes, or disease affecting the valves of the heart.
Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion (BRAO)
This type of “eye stroke” affects peripheral vision in most cases; both peripheral vision and central vision on rare occasions. Research suggests that branch retinal artery occlusion is related to the presence of an embolus (small clot) that has traveled to the eye from a valve in the heart or the primary carotid artery in the neck. The risk factors for this retinal occlusion are similar to those for central retinal artery occlusion, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Treatment and Management Strategies for Vision Preservation
The concern with both types of retinal artery occlusion is the permanent loss of vision. The prognosis for central retinal artery occlusion is poor. However, prompt medical attention may be successful in preventing extensive and irreparable damage. In cases of branch retinal artery occlusion, more care options are available, including laser treatment to prevent severe vision loss. In both instances, ophthalmology and general medicine combine to create strategies that lower the risk of recurrence or persistence of these conditions.
If you experience a sudden loss of vision or sudden visual disturbance, even if only temporary, contact your physician right away for a referral to a qualified retinal specialist. For information on the services available in our offices, call (800) VRS-2500.