Vision Loss & The Heart

Have you ever heard your parents or elderly relative complain of temporary vision loss?

Many times, people complain of vision loss, but are unsure of why vision loss occurs. Vision loss can be temporary or permanent. Often times, temporary vision loss is a precursor to permanent vision loss. Although there are several reasons for vision loss, such as carotid artery disease, optic nerve diseases, migraines, dry eyes and impending strokes, we are only going to discuss temporary vision loss due to carotid artery disease.

Most people do not know the carotid artery has branches that supply the eye and brain. This is important, for problems with the branches can lead to vision problems and/or stroke. Patients with cardiovascular disease or carotid artery disease are the people who will usually complain of temporary vision loss. Why? Unfortunately, a plaque or emboli is released from the carotid artery or heart, and travels up the carotid artery and lodges itself within one of the carotid artery branches. While the plaque is in the artery, normal blood flow is impeded. Because normal circulation has been disturbed, normal visual function is impeded and the retina is not receiving proper blood supply. As a result, the person will complain that vision is out of focus, or complain of a blackout in vision. It could be something we call Amarousis Fugax or a Transient Ischemic Attack. If the vision loss is unilateral, and without neurological symptoms, it is considered Amarousis Fugax. If there is numbness, tingling of fingers, arms or legs, or the loss of vision is bilateral, it is usually a TIA.

The important thing to remember is, these conditions may manifest initially in the eye, but, they are systemic in origin, and each requires a carotid and cardiac evaluation with a medical doctor to determine if there is carotid stenosis (and to what extent), and to determine if there is any problem with their cardiac function. In short, carotid stenosis indicates that there may be a lack of blood flow or no blood reaching the retina. Carotid-Occlusive Disease can result in temporary vision loss or permanent vision. More importantly, it can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Not all cases of vision loss are the same, but neither should be ignored. If you or anyone you know experiences these symptoms, an eye doctor should be consulted immediately. Permanent vision loss may be prevented, and a life can be saved!

This blog is intended for educational purposes only. In no way does it substitute for a medical evaluation with an eye care or medical professional. If any of the above symptoms occur, or should you have further questions, please consult your healthcare professional. 

One thought on “Vision Loss & The Heart

  1. Marlon, this is a great article and very informative. Just now I’m going through some tests to evaluate the carotid because my Dr says I may have an obstruction there. I had no idea this could cause vision loss. I’m praying my test is negative but this has definitely made me aware of something I didn’t know and could actually affect my eyes. Thank you so much. Excellent blog, everyone should definitely read it. Keep up the good work!!

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