The latest research shows hope for vision returning after stroke. However, it depends upon the type of vision problems that you have.
To help you maximize your chances of vision returning after stroke, you’ll learn the different types of vision problems, along with various treatment methods for each.
We hope these methods help your vision return after stroke. Let’s get started.
Cause of Vision Problems After Stroke
A stroke occurs when the supply of oxygen-rich blood in the brain becomes compromised by either a clogged or burst artery.
Brain cells die from oxygen deprivation, creating a wide range of secondary effects — depending upon which parts of the brain were affected.
If stroke damages parts of the brain involved in visual processing, it can result in vision problems after stroke.
Specifically, if the occipital lobe or visual cortex is damaged, it may result in vision impairments after stroke. These two parts of the brain play heavy roles in your vision.
Next, we’ll discuss the different types of vision impairments that may occur.
Types of Vision Problems After Stroke
Vision problems after stroke may affect your ability to see your full visual field.
This includes the total area in which objects can be seen in your peripheral (side) and central vision as you focus on an object.
Here are the types of vision problems after stroke:
1. Central Vision Loss
When a stroke patient cannot see the middle of the visual field, it’s called central vision loss. The photo above illustrates what this patient might see.
2. Hemianopia (Visual Field Cut)
When half of the visual field is missing, it’s called hemianopia. This is also known as a “field cut.”
3. Quadrantanopia (Visual Field Cut)
When only one-fourth of the visual field is missing, it’s called quadrantanopia. This is a smaller type of field cut.
4. Visual Neglect
When a stroke patient is unaware of their affected side, it can cause a condition called visual neglect. This is more of an attention problem than a visual problem.
If someone with left neglect is asked to fill in the numbers on a clock, they might draw something like the photo above.
5. Ocular Motor Impairments / Double Vision
When a stroke patient cannot control their ocular (eye) muscles, it inhibits the ability to control eye movements. This can result in unsteady, jittery eye movements or even double vision, because the eyes are not moving in coordination with each other like they should.
Next, you’ll learn what you can do to maximize your chances of vision returning after stroke.
How Vision May Return After Stroke
Although there are many different types of vision problems after stroke, the solutions all have one thing in common: neuroplasticity.
A new 2019 study shows that, under certain conditions, rewiring the brain may help improve vision.
Specifically, the study states that “when the primary visual processing center of the brain remains intact and active, clinical approaches that harness the brain’s plasticity could lead to vision recovery.”
This begs the question, how can you harness the brain’s plasticity to improve vision after stroke?
Vision Therapy for Stroke Patients
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself as a result of experience. The brain will attempt to become more efficient at whatever we frequently do.
Therefore, by stimulating the brain with visual therapies, vision may improve.
When vision problems are severe, more intensive types of vision restoration therapy may be required, and seeing a neuro-optometrist could be helpful.
The key is to provide repetitive stimulation to the brain to spark the rewiring process.
Types of Vision Therapy for Stroke Patients
Here are types of treatments that may help heal the brain and help vision return after stroke:
Works best for ocular motor problems
If you have eye motor control problems, then eye exercises can help retrain the nerves and muscles that control the eyes. As a result, this can improve vision after stroke.
The more you practice each eye exercise, the more the brain will respond by rewiring itself to get better at each exercise. Repetition is how neuroplasticity engages.
Visual Restoration Therapy
Works best for visual field cuts and central vision loss
During visual restoration therapy, patients look at a central point on a screen while light stimulates the border between “good” and “blind” spots in your field of vision.
Not all evidence supports it, but it could be worth a try.
Limb Activation Treatment
Works best for visual neglect
Another treatment suitable for visual neglect is limb activation treatment. This involves moving the affected limbs within the neglected environment.
Ideally, this helps improve the condition because the visual cortex integrates sensory information with motor information. By stimulating both, it may help improve one’s attention to the neglected side.
Visual Scanning Training
Works best for field cuts, visual neglect, and central vision loss
Individuals with visual neglect may respond best to visual scanning training. This encourages the patient to turn their heads to the left and right to take in their full visual field. Attending to the affected limb(s) can also help.
The goal is to retrain the brain to pay attention to the neglected side.
Hope for Vision Recovery After Stroke
So, will vision return after stroke? The latest study shows that there’s hope if you work to rewire the brain.
Sparking the brain’s plasticity can help vision improve in some stroke patients.
You can activate neuroplasticity by doing eye exercises or participating in vision restoration therapy.
Whatever you choose, do it regularly. The brain needs consistent stimulation in order to rewire itself effectively. Good luck!