An eye stroke or retinal infarction, occurs when blood flow is blocked in the arteries of the retina. Much like a cerebral stroke where blood to the brain is reduced or cut-off, the retina in the eyes lose their blood supply. A sudden loss of vision in some or all of the eye is the most common symptom of an eye stroke. The main risk factors for a classic brain stroke are similar to eye stroke risks:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Sleep apnea
There are various types of eye stroke:
- CRVO (Central retinal Vein Occlusion) is when the retina’s main vein becomes blocked. Usually causing sudden, painless vision loss that can be mild or severe.
- CRAO (Central Retina artery Occlusion) is when the retina’s central artery becomes blocked. Usually occurs with sudden, profound vision loss in one eye, with no pain.
- BRVO (Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion) is where the retina’s small veins become blocked. This type of blockage abuses bleeding and clotting along the retinal vein. It may result in decreased vision, peripheral vision loss, distorted vision or blind spots. This type involves one eye and may be caused by high blood pressure or diabetes.
- BRAO (Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion) is where the retina’s small arteries become blocked. This blockage is usually painless and occurs suddenly. The patient usually loses peripheral vision and sometimes central vision as well. Underlying causes include narrowing of the caroled artery, high blood pressure, cholesterol disorders and/or cardiac disease.
Most patients who do suffer a stroke of the eye do not get a follow-up evaluation by a neurologist that could help prevent the patient from later having a traditional and potentially far more debilitating or deadly stroke in the brain. One in hundred eye stroke patients had a cerebral stroke within 90 days.
Looking to the eyes may help doctors predict who is at risk for stroke. A yearly OCT scan and comprehensive eye exam of the eye creates a running, permanent record of eye health for future comparison. People with changes in the small blood vessels in their eyes are more likely to have similar changes in the larger blood vessels in other places and are more likely to later suffer a stroke. If you have any vision loss or changes to your vision consult a healthcare professional r go to the ER. The sooner treatment starts the best chance there is to minimize damage.