Every year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world experience a stroke. Of the survivors, around 65% will have stroke-related visual symptoms that can make daily living a struggle.
The good news is that many of these visual symptoms are treatable. At Eye Health Centre, we help stroke survivors regain healthy visual functioning and minimize uncomfortable symptoms using neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy.
What’s a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when a portion of the brain is suddenly deprived of blood, either due to a burst blood vessel or a blocked artery. When brain tissue is starved of oxygen and nutrients, its cells eventually die, impairing brain function in that area. If a stroke occurs in the brain’s visual center, it can negatively impact vision and eye functioning in the following ways.
Eye Movement Abnormalities
A stroke can cause a lack of blood supply and damage the nerves in the head. Damage to the eye’s nerves can make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to control eye movements.
A stroke survivor may find it challenging to shift their gaze from one object to another, or the eyes may move back and forth rapidly (a condition called nystagmus).
Blurred, Double or Distorted Vision
Because eye movements may be erratic following a stroke, the two eyes can struggle to work as a team. This often leads to a condition called diplopia, otherwise known as double vision.
Nerve damage from a stroke can also cause blurred or distorted vision.
Extreme Sensitivity to Light
Photophobia, or sensitivity to light, is a common side effect of strokes and ministrokes. It affects up to 30% of stroke survivors. Post-stroke headaches are often a precursor for experiencing photophobia.
Visual Processing Problems
Even if the eyes themselves are healthy, the brain’s ability to process visual information sent from the eyes may be damaged.
Visual neglect and agnosia are examples of visual processing disorders that cause the person to not perceive what's in their visual field. When someone with visual neglect draws a clock, they may include numbers on only one side of the clock.
Visual neglect is a very common post-stroke condition that affects up to 80% of right-sided stroke survivors.
Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Therapy in St. Albert
The process of regaining visual skills after a stroke can be achieved through neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy.
This specialized form of visual rehabilitation therapy aims to maximize healthy visual functioning and help patients achieve their goals.
The therapy consists of personalized eye exercises that retrain the brain and eyes to work as a well-functioning team. Prisms may also be used to correct certain visual impairments and symptoms.
After a successful round of neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy, a stroke survivor may experience relief from debilitating visual symptoms and is often able to resume daily activities independently.
At Eye Health Centre, we understand how stroke-related vision problems can be life-altering, and we’re here to help. We'll develop an individualized treatment plan and follow the patient closely to monitor any improvements or changes.
If you or a loved one has survived a stroke, call Eye Health Centre in St. Albert to schedule a neuro-optometric evaluation.
Our practice serves patients from St. Albert, Edmonton, Spruce Grove, and Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta and surrounding communities.
Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Sophie Jobin
A: Neuro-optometry is a specific form of eye care created to treat visual dysfunction associated with neurological problems. Neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy is suitable for patients who’ve sustained any type of traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion or whiplash. Typical conditions treated by neuro-optometrists include binocular vision dysfunction, accommodative dysfunctions, convergence insufficiency, nystagmus, photophobia, eye muscle movement problems, spatial disorientation and cranial nerve palsy, among others.
Q: Can visual symptoms signal a stroke?
A: Yes. Loss of vision, especially on one side of the visual field, can signal a stroke. Some patients report seeing a dark shadow either in the upper or lower portion of their visual field. Light sensitivity can also be a symptom of an onsetting stroke. Seek immediate medical care if you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms.