Strokes and vision

Not seeing the whole picture? 

Up to a quarter of stroke survivors may have some vision loss. Improvement usually takes place in the first months after a stroke. Many types of vision loss can occur, but the most common is loss of half of each eye’s visual field (called hemianopia). Some people do not even recognize that they can now see only half of what was seen before; this is called "visual neglect."

People who have this problem usually had a stroke on their right side of their brain and suffer from hemianopia on their left side of their field of vision, like this:
left-side hemianopia               visual neglect

It's important to understand that someone who suffers neglect or hemianopia is not consciously ignoring anything. A person’s failure to pay attention to a particular portion of space is not intentional.

Tips on working on left-side hemianopia and neglect:
  • Keep trying moving your eye and head to the left side.
  • Walk around the room toward the left side.
  • Use a flashlight aimed alternately toward each foot while walking.
  • Do daily crossword puzzles and play card games, to involve sensory input with tactile input.
  • Have your family and friends sit on the left side to you.
  • Try to look toward the left with your eyes closed. Then when you think you are looking left, open your eyes, so that you can see how far toward left your eyes are actually postured.
  • Wear a wristwatch that can beep at intervals to remind you to scan toward the left.
  • Create a set of letters or numbers that span across an entire page. Ask the person with neglect to find and cross out a specific item on the page. Encourage them to look to the affected side.
  • Use a strip of sandpaper or colored tape at the left margin of a book to use tactile reinforcement to help looking at the left side.
  • Try turning a page at a 45-degree angle.
  • Circle the first word and the last word of each line in a magazine article.
  • Name the first and last items on shelves. 
  • Try doing the above eye exercises while listening to music you like. Why? Read this interesting study.
  • Consult with a neuro-ophthalmologist, who might outfit you with field awareness prisms.
  • Consider practicing with a iPad app such as the Visual Attention Therapy.

More on strokes and vision: