Stroke-related eye conditions

Strokes occur when a part of your brain is starved of oxygen. Vision problems are common after you have a stroke. This is because our eyes send visual information to different parts of the brain involved in seeing.

If a stroke affects certain parts of the brain then this can affect your sight. Stokes can cause vision problems including visual field loss, double or blurry vision and can also affect visual processing.

We’ve created a downloadable factsheet about the most common eye conditions related to stroke. We also offer support for coping with the conditions and are here if you need to talk to us.

Download our guide on sight loss related to stroke

How can a stroke affect vision?

Stroke can affect the visual pathways of your eye and this can affect your vision in different ways including:

When stroke affects the areas of your brain that process information you see, it can cause problems such as:

  • visual neglect
  • judging depth and movement
  • recognising objects and people
  • visual hallucinations.

You can get a more in-depth look at the eye conditions related to stroke in our downloadable factsheet.

Field loss: hemianopia

Hemianopia is where there is a loss of one half of your visual field. This may mean that you’re not able to see to either the left or right from the centre of your field of vision in both eyes. If you have a stroke to one side of your brain, you may develop field loss to the opposite side. The extent of field loss can vary and depends on the area of your brain that has been affected by the stroke.

For more information about what it's like to have hemianopia, watch our film which features Tim, who has the the condition, and Professor Leff, a neuro-ophthalmologist.

Eye movement problems 

A stroke can lead to problems with eye movements resulting in both eyes not working together as a pair. This can make it difficult to focus on specific things because of blurred vision as well as diplopia (double vision).

People may also experience problems with their fast (saccades) or slow (pursuit) eye movements which make it very difficult for the person to focus visually. In addition, their eyes may wobble (a condition known as nystagmus) or they may not be able to move both eyes together in a particular direction (gaze palsy).

Vision processing

This is when you may be able to see an object clearly but the images are not processed by your brain correctly. It can lead to people ignoring objects that are there or being unable to interpret text when reading.

Is there any treatment?

There are different techniques that can be used to try to help deal with the visual effects of stroke. These will depend on how the stroke has affected your vision but can include glasses, prisms, patching, magnifiers and scanning information. There’s also computer-based rehab programs which may help improve your ability to scan if you have field loss. 

Some people may see some improvement in their vision up to six months following a stroke. Again, this is highly dependent on where the damage in your brain has happened as well as the type of stroke suffered and other existing health problems. Unfortunately for many people, especially those with loss of visual field, sight loss may be permanent.

Part of the rehabilitation program for someone who has had a stroke should include an assessment of their vision and eyes. Orthoptists and low vision specialists can assess and work with you on visual training with or without optical aids. The stroke team, GP or ophthalmologist can refer you for an orthoptic assessment and/or to the low vision clinic. 

Further information on these various treatments can be found in our stroke-related eye conditions download guide.

Coping

It’s completely natural to be upset when you’ve been diagnosed with vision loss. Often there can be a lot of life changes in a short space of time. You may find that you are worried about the future and how you will manage with a change in your vision. All these feelings are natural. 

Some people may want to talk over some of these feelings with someone outside their circle of friends or family. RNIB are here for you with our Sight Loss Advice Service. Your GP or social worker may also be able to help you find a counsellor if you think this would help you.

Help to see things better 

If you do have some sight loss, there are lots of things that you can do to make the most of your remaining vision. This may mean making things bigger, using brighter lighting or using colour to make things easier to see.

Find out more about how to make the most of your sight by downloading our guide:

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