Eye Strokes (Retinal Artery Occlusion): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

By: Mohan Garikiparithi | Eye Health | Wednesday, March 29, 2017 – 02:00 PM

When people think of strokes, they immediately think of an abnormality occurring in the brain. However, it can happen in the eyes too. This type of stroke is referred to as retinal artery occlusion.

A typical stroke affecting the brain can occur in one of two ways: ischemic or hemorrhagic. Both have the same end result—cell death—but occur differently. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs due to an aneurysm in the brain rupturing, causing blood to escape and decreased perfusion to the area of the brain affected. Ischemic stroke occurs due to the blockage or narrowing of the blood vessels supplying the brain with vital nutrients and oxygen—therefore, the affected area becomes starved of blood, leading to a stroke.

Ischemic strokes are more related to the eye. In the case of strokes, the blockage affects the retina—a thin film that lines the inner surface of the back of the eyes. It is responsible for sending light signals to the brain to be interpreted and understood. Blockage of the retinal vein leads to leakage of fluids into the retina, causing swelling and preventing oxygen circulation and your ability to see.

An obstruction in the main retinal vein is called a central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO). If it occurs in the smaller branch veins, it is called branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO). Obstruction can also occur in the arteries supplying the eye, which include central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO) and the small branching arteries supplying the eyes, branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO).

Types of retinal artery occlusion (eye strokes)

As discussed above, a stroke affecting the eye may result in damage to the surrounding structure that’s vital for our vision, including the retina and the optic nerve. Once an eye exam detects the signs of eye occlusion, the type is diagnosed…

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