How A Stoke Can Affect Your Eyes

At Eye Care Specialists, we receive and care for many patients whose eyes have been affected by strokes. A stroke or cerebrovascular accident happens when a section of the brain is deprived of blood (which is referred to as an ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel bursts (a hemorrhagic stroke). Over 80,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular disease and stroke, making it the number one cause of death. Here are some common signs and symptoms to look for:


  • A general confusion, which could include trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Problems with coordination, like dizziness or trouble walking.
  • A numbness or weakness in the face or extremities, usually occurring on one side of the body.
  • A sudden severe headache with unknown origins.


Also remember: Whatever lobe of the brain is damaged will physically affect the opposite side of the body; for instance, a stroke on right side of the brain effects the left side of the body.


Although each person’s case is different (depending on the stroke’s severity and location), another common symptom that arises from a stroke is vision problems—which can affects either one or both eyes. One of the most common visual problem caused by strokes is a loss of the visual field. The visual field is a term used by doctors to describe how much one can see in their periphery, or side vision, while focusing on a central point. Typically, a patient will have what is known as hemianopsia, which entails the loss of their visual field to the left of center or right of center. As mentioned above, the side of the body most affected is completely dependent upon the location of the clot in the brain—which includes vision: a stroke on the left side of the brain can cause vision loss in the in the right field (right hemianopsia) and vice versa (left hemianopsia). In some circumstances, optical aids can be used to increase the field of vision by shifting an image either to the right or left. These aids are fitted by an eye care professional and may come in the form of prisms, which can be either temporarily or permanently applied on the affected side.


Sometimes a patient can be taught scanning techniques (eye movement patters) in order to compensate for the portion of their field they cannot see. Even though training is available, hemianopsia can still be a very frustrating condition for necessary day-to-day activities like reading. For example, a person with right hemianopsia might miss the end of words or a line of text, and likewise a person left hemianopsia may find it difficult to locate the beginning of a sentence or line of text. In order to compensate, one could try using a post it note or ruler to mark the beginning, as well as underneath, sentences. Some may also benefit from changing the angle and tilting the text and trying to read it vertically.


Strokes can also lead to an incongruity in the way eyes work together as a pair, making it difficult to focus because of diplopia (double vision), impacting reading, walking, and many other daily activities. Some stroke victims may also experience problems with fast or slow eye movements, making it difficult to visually focus, or their eyes may wobble (nystagmus) or not move together simultaneously in one direction (gaze palsy). Prisms are again an effective treatment, though they can only help eliminate double vision and not increase the field of view. Patching one eye can also help eliminate double vision, but it can also result in monocular vision, which reduces depth perception and mobility issues due to the smaller field of vision.


Other post stroke problems include unilateral spatial inattention or visual neglect, which is very common in patients whose stroke has hit the right side of their brain, and thus affected the left side of their body. Those suffering from neglect may ignore food on one half of their plate, completely avoid shaving, or only apply makeup to one side of their face. More seriously, they may also be unaware of people and objects advancing toward them on their affected side, which could result in serious injury. Neglect can be treated with prisms, but more often than not patients are advised to develop awareness strategies to cope, like scanning.


It is incredibly important for a stroke victim to have an eye exam as soon as possible. You’ll find some of the most skilled optometrist and eye care professionals at the Norwood laser Eye Care Specialists. Make us a vital part of your rehabilitation team, as we uncover and diagnose your stroke related vision problems in order to recommend an effective treatment plan.

Set up an appointment with a doctor from Eye Care Specialists today by calling 781-769-8880 and get on the road to recovery.