Health Alert: Eye Strokes
March 7, 2018
According to findings presented at a recent international stroke conference and hosted by the American Stroke Association (ASA), individuals who have eye strokes often fail to receive proper medical care and comprehensive evaluations. As a result of these failures, eye stroke patients face substantial risks for having different, even more dangerous and deadly kinds of strokes in the future.
Unsurprisingly, eye strokes affect the eye – they happen when blood flow to the retina gets blocked off. Certain people are more likely than others to have eye strokes, which are also known as retinal infarctions. People with a history of carotid or neck artery narrowing, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, atrial fibrillation (also known as “afib”) and diabetes are more likely to have an eye stroke. Some common symptoms of retinal infarctions include:
- A sudden loss of complete vision;
- Distorted vision;
- Blind spots, and/or:
- Loss of peripheral vision
Even though people who had eye strokes should be evaluated for the known medical risk factors (e.g. cardiovascular disease, etc.) as well as to screen for the risk of future medical complications – like strokes that occur in the brain (also known as ischemic attacks or cerebral strokes) – the American Heart Association (AHA) finds that this rarely happens. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM), only one-third of all eye stroke patients undergo risk evaluations for future stroke incidents.
This is very bad news, because the study also documented that approximately every 1 in 100 eye stroke patients have cerebral strokes within 90 days. Every year, nearly 800,000 people have a stroke and more than 140,000 die. Strokes are also the leading cause of long-term disability, so it is crucial to take every precautionary step possible to limit the numbers that occur. With a wealth of data confirming that eye stroke patients are at a higher risk for experiencing future strokes, doctors need to take extra steps to keep them safe. New treatment standards should be enacted to ensure that these patients aren’t left in danger.
In order to inhibit an eye stroke patient’s risk for having a cerebral stroke, doctors need to assess what caused the eye stroke in the first place. The AHA reports that there are typically two main causes behind an eye stroke:
- An irregular heart rhythm, or:
- A buildup of fatty plaque in the neck area
To determine the cause of an eye stroke, doctors need to order diagnostic imaging tests of the arteries in the neck as well as to evaluate the patient’s heart health. The findings presented at the ASA’s conference confirmed that although most cerebral stroke patients undergo diagnostic testing, approximately two-thirds of eye stroke patients don’t. When doctors fail to confirm the cause behind an eye stroke, patients are even more likely to experience dangerous – and potentially deadly – health complications in the future. It’s also important to mention that according to the study, the majority of eye stroke patients aren’t seen by neurologists while receiving treatment, which means these they are not getting the specialized care that they need.
Considering that individuals who have eye strokes are more likely to have ischemic strokes in the future, hospitals and doctors alike need to seriously reassess the way in which they approach them. Strokes are currently the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States – so when a person has symptoms that typically accompany eye strokes, it’s necessary to go and get checked out by a doctor right away. Retinal infarctions should be red flags that alert doctors to a patient’s risk for transient ischemic attacks – or “mini strokes” – as well as full-blown ones. Doctors who treat their eye stroke patients as being higher risk for future strokes will likely decrease the number of fatalities and permanent disabilities that occur.
The lead author of WCM’s study says that at the very minimum, every eye stroke patient requires a stroke risk evaluation by a neurologist or cardiologist. But the reality is, even a stroke risk evaluation likely isn’t in-depth enough to limit a person’s risk for future stroke incidents. Doctors need to treat eye stroke patients the same as brain stroke patients: this means ordering all the same tests as well as creating rigorous treatment and rehabilitation plans.
Some risk factors for strokes aren’t preventable, but some of them are – and most of them are treatable with a doctor’s help. The ASA reports that some of the most controllable risk factors for all different kinds of strokes are:
- Smoking tobacco products;
- Being overweight, physically inactive and/or obese;
- Excessive alcohol intake;
- Transient ischemic attacks – or TIAs
- High blood cholesterol, and:
- High blood pressure
If you are someone who had a stroke in the past and you want to learn more about what medical treatments or lifestyle changes could help prevent your chances for having a stroke, you should have a conversation with your doctor. It’s always best to speak with a medical professional before making any lifestyle or dietary changes of any kind.
The most important thing to remember is that the more quickly a person having a stroke is treated, the more likely he or she is to have a better medical outcome. Even though eye strokes aren’t usually aren’t considered as dangerous or serious as full-blown ischemic attacks, they should never be taken lightly. If you believe that you or a loved one is having an eye stroke, please seek medical help immediately – and afterwards, don’t forget to have an in-depth conversation with your doctor about what steps you can take to decrease the chances for future and even more debilitating stroke incidents.
Cardiologists, neurologists and other kinds of doctors – as well as medical universities and hospitals – need to account for all of these findings in their day-to-day practices. Doctors are responsible for maintaining a standard of care making sure that eye stroke patients are correctly diagnosed, evaluated and treated. Since these patients are known to be at a higher risk for recurrent strokes, it’s even more important that professionals treat them with prevention in mind. If you have any questions about injuries you or a loved one experienced as a result of a medical misdiagnosis or improper treatment for a stroke, please contact a representative at our firm directly.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Victims of Medical Negligence
If you had an eye stroke but your doctor missed it or didn’t provide the proper care and you were injured as a result, please contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.