Understanding occipital stroke
Your occipital lobe is one of four lobes in the brain. It controls your ability to see things. An occipital stroke is a stroke that occurs in your occipital lobe.
If you’re having an occipital stroke, your symptoms will be different than symptoms for other types of strokes. The possible complications will also be unique.
Keep reading to learn more about this type of stroke.
The main symptoms associated with an occipital stroke involve changes to your vision. You may experience:
- blurry vision
- hallucinations, such as flashing lights
The severity of your symptoms will depend on the severity of the stroke. Your symptoms will also differ depending on the part of the occipital lobe that’s affected by the stroke. For example, if the stroke affects the central part of the lobe, you’ll be unable to see objects in your direct line of sight.
A complete loss of vision is an emergency situation and you shouldn’t ignore it. Get immediate medical help if this occurs. Complete loss of vision may lead to permanent blindness. You may also experience sensory loss, including pain.
The symptoms of a stroke include:
- tingling on one side of your body
- difficulty expressing your thoughts or ideas
- difficulty with speech
- a severe headache that lasts for a longer length of time than usual
- a change in vision, such as loss of vision on one side, loss of vision straight on, or a complete loss of vision
Stroke is a medical emergency. It’s important to receive treatment right away. If you think you may be having a stroke, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.
Obstruction in the arteries causes approximately 87 percent of strokes. This kind of stroke is known as an ischemic stroke. A blood clot is an example of an obstruction.
Another cause of stroke is a leaking blood vessel or a blood vessel that ruptures in the brain. This results in what’s known as a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes account for approximately 13 percent of strokes.
Occipital strokes occur when you have an obstruction or hemorrhage in the posterior cerebral artery, which is located in the brain.
Two of the biggest risk factors for stroke are diabetes and high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Fifty percent of strokes occur in people with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure increases the pressure placed on your arteries. This can damage the walls of your arteries. Damage to the artery walls can cause them to thicken and narrow.
Additional risk factors are:
- a history of stroke or ministroke
- a family history of stroke
- a higher-than-normal number of red blood cells (RBCs)
- presence of a carotid bruit, which is a sound that comes from your artery and occurs due to narrowing of the arteries
- drug use, such as the use of cocaine or amphetamines
- an inactive lifestyle
- the use of birth control pills or estrogen replacement therapy
Your risk of stroke also increases with age. Starting at the age of 55, your risk nearly doubles every ten years.
Your doctor will review your signs and symptoms with you. They’ll go over your medical history, perform a physical exam, and run any relevant tests.
During your physical exam, your doctor will check your vision, balance, and coordination abilities and assess your alertness. They’ll also perform a series of diagnostic tests if they suspect you’ve had a stroke.
They may order the following diagnostic tests and procedures:
- CT scan. A brain CT can help your doctor find damaged brain cells or bleeding on the brain.
- MRI. MRI uses radio waves and magnets to create images of your brain. Your doctor can use these images to identify damage to your brain tissue and cells that occurs due to stroke.
- Arteriogram. A CT arteriogram and a magnetic resonance arteriogram (MRA) will allow your doctor to see the large blood vessels in your brain. This will help them determine if you have a blood clot. An arteriogram is also known as an angiogram.
- Carotid angiography. Carotid angiography uses X-ray and dye to display your carotid arteries.
- Carotid ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to create images of your carotid arteries from the inside. This will help your doctor identify if you have narrowing arteries from plaque buildup.
- Echocardiography and electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). Echocardiograms and electrocardiograms may be performed to evaluate the health of your heart.
Your doctor may also order blood tests if they suspect a stroke. A blood glucose test may be done because low sugar can cause symptoms similar to stroke. Your doctor may also want to test your platelet count to see if your counts are low. If your count is low, it may indicate a bleeding issue.
Treatment depends on the severity of the stroke and any complications you may have. If you have vision problems, your doctor will refer you to a neuro-ophthalmologist or neuro-optometrist. They’ll determine a rehabilitation plan that should help restore some of your vision or help you to adjust to any vision loss.
Your doctor may recommend compensatory vision therapy. This therapy uses prisms to shift images from the field of your vision that’s impaired to your functioning field of vision.
It may take about six months before you see any improvement in your visual field following an occipital stroke. Each person’s recovery is unique, though, and your recovery time can vary from weeks to years. Some people may fully recover while others will have impaired vision or other complications for the rest of their lives. Learn more about stroke recovery.
You may require ongoing emotional support, rehabilitation, and medications. Continue to see your doctor and take medications as recommended. You should also participate in any rehabilitation plan your doctor recommends.
You may not be able to prevent a stroke entirely, but you can reduce your risk by making certain lifestyle changes:
- Learn to manage your stress with coping skills.
- Follow a healthy diet.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
- Quit smoking or using tobacco products.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit your alcohol intake.