Eye Stroke: Treatment & Recovery

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  • 0:00 What Is an Eye Stroke?
  • 1:21 Treating Eye Strokes
  • 2:57 Eye Stroke Recovery
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

An eye stroke is a specific type of stroke that affects, you guessed it, the eye! This lesson takes a look at some of the short- and long-term treatment options for eye strokes, as well as recovery plans.

What is an Eye Stroke?

Chances are you've already learned a little bit about strokes, but are you familiar with a specific type called an eye stroke? Katie experienced an eye stroke last year that was attributed to her chronic hypertension (high blood pressure). An artery that fed blood to her retina suddenly became blocked, and she lost the vision in her left eye. Because she sought medical help right away, they were able to restore her blood flow, so she didn't suffer any permanent vision loss; but the entire ordeal was scary and prompted Katie to make some changes so that hopefully she wouldn't experience a second stroke.

Let's take a closer look at eye strokes, focusing on treatment options and recovery plans. First, to review: a stroke occurs when a blood vessel, usually an artery, in the brain becomes blocked or damaged. This disrupts the ability of blood to flow through the affected vessel, limiting the amount of oxygen-rich blood that can get past the damage. As cells in the brain become more oxygen-deprived, they begin to die in a condition called a stroke. An eye stroke is just a specific type of stroke that occurs due to blockages in an artery that transports blood to the eye, thus affecting eyesight.

Treating Eye Strokes

Typical symptoms include either partial or total vision loss as the eye is denied oxygen. The retina is the structure usually affected; the retina's job is to transmit visual stimuli from the eye to the brain so the vision data can be processed and interpreted. Without oxygen, the retina can't function, so eyesight is temporarily lost as visual data stops getting transmitted to the brain.

The goals of immediate treatment are to restore blood flow as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage. One way to do this is to inhale carbon dioxide, which works by dilating (widening or opening) the arteries that supply blood to the retina. Another option includes using intravenous clot-busting medication that seek and destroy blockages, restoring blood flow, and in some scenarios, corticosteroid medication may help improve circulation around the eyes. Or, in other cases, fluids are removed from the eye to give the clot a chance to move out of the artery.

Once short-term treatment is successful, it's time to look at long-term treatment options, and these depend on what the underlying cause of the eye stroke was. Risk factors of eye strokes are similar to those of stroke and heart attack and include: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension (remember Katie?), high cholesterol, or carotid artery disease. If one of these underlying conditions is detected, the goal is to manage it to avoid another stroke - or prevent a heart attack - from occurring. Often, medications can be effective in controlling these conditions.

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