Ask the doctor: Did a stroke damage my vision?

Ask the doctor

Did a stroke damage my vision?

Q. A few months ago I gradually lost about 50% of the vision in my right eye. My ophthalmologist says this was caused by a small stroke. Am I now at higher risk for future strokes or heart attacks than someone who has not had a stroke?

A. It sounds like you had a retinal artery embolus rather than a stroke, which would have affected both of your eyes. That technicality aside, the implications for your future are essentially the same as if you did have a small stroke.

A retinal artery embolus occurs when a small clot or bit of plaque from your heart or an artery elsewhere in the body gets into the bloodstream and sticks in one of the small arteries that supply your retinas. This material is called an embolus (plural, emboli). The embolus cut off the blood supply to your right retina for a while, and the resulting lack of oxygen caused some damage. This is essentially what happens in a heart attack or stroke, only on a smaller scale.

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