Overview Of Temporary Visual Loss – Amaurosis Fugax
Temporary visual loss (also called amaurosis fugax) is when a person temporarily loses the vision in one or both of their eyes. This is most often due to a lack of blood flow to their retina. The retina is located at the back of the person’s eye, and is the layer of tissue responsible for light sensitivity.
Commonly Associated With
Transient monocular blindness/visual loss and transient binocular visual loss/blindness
Causes Of Temporary Visual Loss – Amaurosis Fugax
Amaurosis fugax isn’t a disease in and of itself – instead, it is mainly a symptom of other medical conditions. Many different conditions can result in temporary blindness.
For example, a blood clot or piece of plaque can clog an artery in the eye, which causes the person’s temporary blindness. These clogging substances typically originate in larger arteries and then travel upwards into the eye.
(Plaque is a type of hard substance that forms when cholesterol, fat, or other substances build up within artery walls.)
Risk factors for the development of these clots or plaques include:
- High blood pressure
- Older age
- High cholesterol
- Cocaine abuse
- Family history of stroke
- Alcohol abuse
- Heart disease, especially if it involves an irregular heartbeat
Amaurosis fugax may also occur because of other causes, including disorders such as:
- A brain tumor
- Other eye problems, such as optic neuritis
- Head injury
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Migraine headaches
- Polyarteritis nodosa (a blood vessel disease)
Symptoms Of Temporary Visual Loss – Amaurosis Fugax
The symptoms of temporary visual loss are just as they sound – a sudden loss of vision in either one or both eyes. This loss usually lasts for a few seconds to several minutes. The person’s vision should return to normal afterwards. Some with the condition have described the vision loss as a black or gray “shade” coming down over one or both eyes.
Exams & Tests
The person’s health care provider will perform a complete eye exam, along with an exam of their nervous system. For some, an eye exam may then reveal a bright spot in the eye, where a clot or plaque is blocking the retinal artery. This will only be present if that is the cause of the temporary visual loss. Therefore, other causes will have different things to find upon exam.
Other possible tests can include:
- Ultrasound or MRI
- Blood tests for cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Heart tests, such as an ECG
Treatment Of Temporary Visual Loss – Amaurosis Fugax
Treatment of amaurosis fugax will depend on what’s causing it. When the temporary visual loss is due to a blood clot or plaque, the person should be very concerned about the possibility of a stroke, and should work to prevent one in their future.
Common stroke prevention tips include:
- Follow treatment plans for diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, or heart disease as closely as possible
- Keep LDL (bad) cholesterol below 70 mg/dL
- Aim for a blood pressure of 120 to 130/80 mm Hg. Those with diabetes or a previous stroke may need to aim for a lower blood pressure than that
- Quit smoking, or never begin
- Avoid fatty foods and eat a low-fat diet
- DO NOT consume more than 1 to 2 alcoholic drinks a day, and try not to consume any at all if possible
- Exercise regularly, aiming for around 30 minutes a day if not overweight and 60 to 90 minutes a day if overweight
Other possible treatments include:
- No treatment, with only regular visits to check carotid artery and heart health
- Aspirin, warfarin (also called Coumadin), or other blood-thinning medications to prevent further clots
- In severe cases, in which a large part of the person’s carotid artery appears blocked, a carotid endarterectomy surgery may be needed. This will remove the blockage completely, and pieces shouldn’t be able to travel up to the retinal artery again