Definition

What is amaurosis fugax?

Amaurosis fugax is a temporary loss of vision in one or both eyes due to a lack of blood flow to the retina. Amaurosis fugax is often a symptom, not a health condition. It reflects other conditions that affect the nerves or blood flow to the eyes.

How common is amaurosis fugax?

Amaurosis fugax can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of amaurosis fugax?

Symptoms include the sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes. Depending on the cause, the duration of vision loss can vary. Afterward, vision returns to normal. Some people describe the loss of vision as a gray or black shade coming down over the eye.

 

Etiology Duration
Migraine with aura 10 to 20 minutes
Retinal migraine 10 to 20 minutes
Vertebrobasilar insufficiency Seconds
Retinal emboli 3 to 5 minutes
Papilledema Seconds
Seizure (Ictal) 3 to 5 minutes; (postictal) 10 to 20 minutes

 

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact medical help immediately:

  • If you have an unusually severe headache.
  • If you have another episode of vision loss, call immediately.
  • If you have signs or symptoms of a transient ischemic attack (TIA). The following are some of the more common symptoms of a TIA:
    • Weakness or numbness on one side of the face or body (face, arm, leg)
    • Changes in vision
    • Confusion
    • Dizziness
    • Blindness
    • Double vision
    • Slurred speech, inability to talk, or difficulty swallowing
    • Loss of coordination or balance

Causes

What causes amaurosis fugax?

Amaurosis fugax can occur from a number of different causes. Most often, the cause is by a blockage in the veins that prevent blood from entering the retina. This blockage is build up from plague that travels from a larger artery, such as the carotid artery in the neck or an artery in the heart, to an artery in the eye.

Amaurosis fugax can also occur because of other disorders such as:

  • Other eye problems, such as inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis)
  • Blood vessel disease called polyarteritis nodosa
  • Migraine headaches
  • Brain tumor
  • Head injury
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammation of the nerves due to the body’s immune cells attacking the nervous system
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune cells attack healthy tissue throughout the body

Risk factors

What increases my risk for amaurosis fugax?

As plague build up is often the biggest cause of amaurosis fugax, the higher your cholesterol and fat levels are, the more risk you have. Risk factors include:

  • Heart disease, especially irregular heartbeat
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Cocaine use
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Increasing age
  • Smoking (people who smoke one pack a day double their risk of a stroke)

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

 

How is amaurosis fugax diagnosed?

The health care provider will perform a complete eye and nervous system exam. In some cases, an eye exam will reveal a bright spot where the clot is blocking the retinal artery. Tests that may be done include:

  • Ultrasound or magnetic resonance angiography scan of the carotid artery to check for blood clots or plaque
  • Blood tests to check cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Tests of the heart, such as an ECG to check its electrical activity

How is amaurosis fugax treated?

Treatment of amaurosis fugax depends on its cause. When amaurosis fugax is due to a blood clot or plaque, the concern is to prevent a stroke with self-management tips.

Your doctor may also recommend:

  • No treatment. You may only need regular visits to check the health of your heart and carotid arteries.
  • Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), or other blood-thinning drugs to lower your risk of stroke.

If a large part of the carotid artery appears blocked, carotid endarterectomy surgery is done to remove the blockage. The decision to do surgery is also based on your overall health.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage amaurosis fugax?

When amaurosis fugax is due to a blood clot or plaque, these steps can help to prevent it:

  • Avoid fatty foods and follow a healthy, low-fat diet. DO NOT drink more than 1 to 2 alcoholic drinks a day.
  • Exercise regularly: 30 minutes a day if you are not overweight; 60 to 90 minutes a day if you are overweight.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Most people should aim for a blood pressure below 120 to 130/80 mm Hg. If you have diabetes or have had a stroke, your doctor may tell you to aim for a lower blood pressure.
  • If you have diabetes, heart disease, or hardening of the arteries, your LDL “bad” cholesterol should be lower than 70 mg/dL.
  • Follow your doctor’s treatment plans if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease.

Other management tips for amaurosis fugax include:

  • If you are a diabetic, it is very important to maintain good control of your
  • blood sugar.
  • If you use tobacco, immediately begin a program to quit smoking. Ask your
  • GP for help
  • Do not drive if you are having an episode or have had a number of episodes.
  • A sudden loss of vision in one eye could put you and others in danger.
  • Don’t use tobacco because it promotes vascular disease.
  • Don’t ignore any of the above signs or symptoms because they may be an
  • early warning sign of a major stroke.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: April 22, 2017 | Last Modified: April 22, 2017

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