Casey Eye Institute Educates Oregonians About Eye Stroke

05/17/00    Portland, Ore.

Just like a stroke in the brain, it attacks without warning. Retinal artery occlusion and ischemic optic neuropathy, both also called stroke in the eye, usually affect people age 50 and older. However, the disease also can strike at an earlier age. During Stroke Awareness Month this May, physicians at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University are educating Oregonians about the signs of stroke in the eye while stressing the importance of prompt treatment without delay.

The disease is caused by a blood flow problem to the back of the eye. There are two basic types: retinal artery occlusion, caused by blood flow irregularities around the optic nerve, and ischemic optic neuropathy, which surfaces when blockage in the main artery to the retina occurs.

As a result of these optic circulatory problems, the following can occur:

  • A sudden, painless onset of vision loss in one or both eyes. A few patients may experience pain.
  • Sight loss can vary from foggy vision, to disruption of vision in portions of the eye, to complete blindness.
  • Eye strokes may occur during sleep or while awake.
  • Patients who wear glasses sometimes assert that they fail to recognize the problem, confusing the vision loss with a smudge on their glasses.

Early detection and quick treatment of eye stroke can sometimes result in at least partial recovery of lost eyesight. In most cases, patients seeking early treatment must do so within 16 to 24 hours of the onset of an eye stroke. Casey Eye Institute is one of a handful of vision centers across the country offering surgery to possibly halt or reverse the impact of an eye stroke. In addition, researchers at Casey are involved in clinical trials to test the latest therapies.

According to OHSU neuro-ophthalmologist Robert Egan, M.D., the key to treating this disease is education. "The majority of Americans are familiar with the effects of a stroke in the brain," said Egan. "However, many of our patients at the moment they suffer the vision loss don't realize that they're suffering from retinal artery occlusion or ischemic optic neuropathy. They don't realize that the problem is serious. The most vital point in treating patients with stroke in the eye or the brain is to educate people to seek medical attention as soon as their problem starts. With prompt action, we're able to recover some vision in 50 percent to 60 percent of patients who lost eyesight due to retinal artery occlusion."