Stroke and Vision

Keep an Eye Out: Stroke and Your Vision

By Ricardo Mabanta, MD, Neurologist - Virtua Neurosciences

Sudden numbness on one side of body, difficulty speaking, severe headache, and loss of facial control are all commonly understood signs of a stroke. But did you know even a temporary change in vision can be a symptom of a “brain attack”?

Common Vision Problems from Stroke

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. There are two main types of stroke. An ischemic stroke happens when a blood vessel supplying oxygen-rich blood to the brain is blocked.

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel bursts and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue.

Effects on your vision depend on where in the brain the stroke takes place. Most of our visual processing occurs in the occipital lobe, located at the back of the brain.

If the stroke is in the right occipital lobe, your left visual field may be affected. Conversely, a stroke on the left occipital lobe can affect your right visual field.

As the pathways responsible for sight involve both sides of the brain, a stroke on either side may cause vision problems. An eye examination will help us determine where the stroke is and the type of treatment necessary.

Common vision problems from a stroke include the sudden onset of:

  • Blurriness
  • Full or partial blindness in one or both eyes
  • Double vision
  • The feeling a veil is covering both eyes
  • Sensitivity to light

People seeing images that move or whose eyes seem to be “dancing” from side to side could be having a stroke in the brain stem.

Don’t Delay Your Care

A stroke is not the only condition that can impact your eyesight. Other reasons for vision changes include a detached retina, cataracts, multiple sclerosis (vision problems are often the first symptom of MS), inflammation of the blood vessels supplying the eyes, a tumor pressing on the optic nerve, and a pituitary tumor.

If you develop a sudden vision problem, don’t wait for it to go away. Call 911 and get to the hospital immediately.

A Team Approach to Neurologic Care

The Penn Medicine | Virtua Health Neurosciences Program provides the most advanced diagnostic and treatment options close to home. Make an appointment or call 888-847-8823.

Updated January 17, 2022

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