Eye Occlusions (Eye Strokes)

Strokes occur when blood supply to a certain part of the body is compromised due to a blockage of an artery. Eye occlusions, or eye strokes, occur when veins and arteries to the retina or optic nerve become blocked. These strokes often occur without warning or pain and can cause significant visual disturbances and vision loss.

What are eye occlusions?

Eye strokes happen in much the same way as other strokes. When blood supply to the eye is cut off the eye does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients to function. This quickly leads to increased pressure and eventually cell death. Damage to the cells of the eye produces partial or complete vision loss.

Symptoms of eye occlusions

The primary symptoms of an eye stroke are:

  • Headache 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Eye swelling 
  • Loss of contrast sensitivity 
  • Blind spots in vision

People who suffer an eye occlusion will notice a loss of vision over the course of several days. The stroke itself is painless, which is why it is important to see a doctor when there are any significant changes in vision.

Causes of eye occlusions

Eye occlusions can be caused by a blood clot or plaque breaking loose from the carotid artery or the valves or chambers of the heart. There may also be localized clots in the retinal veins due to hardening of arteries.

People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiac disease, or some combination of these conditions have a higher risk of developing an eye stroke.

Treatment of eye occlusions

After an eye stroke, the goal of treatment is to restore blood flow to the affected area. Once swelling subsides, treatment can begin. There has been limited success with therapies to treat eye strokes.

General treatments include: 

  • Retinal photography 
  • Laser treatments
  • Medication to reduce pressure in the eye 
  • CO2 therapy 
  • Eye massage

A change in lifestyle can greatly reduce the risk of developing an eye stroke, particularly for people with a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol.

If you notice any change in your vision, it is important to schedule a comprehensive eye examination with your doctor immediately.

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