Three presentations of monocular vision loss

Melissa E Trego, Jean Marie Pagani
Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association 2006, 77 (2): 82-7

BACKGROUND: Carotid artery disease is estimated to affect 30% of persons older than 50. Risk factors include hypertension, cigarette smoking, hyperlipidemia and diabetes mellitus. Symptoms ascribed to carotid artery lesions with stenosis of the artery or plaque formation include monocular vision loss and transient ischemic attacks. Patients can present with transient monocular vision loss as their initial symptom.

CASE REPORTS: Three patients from a geriatric clinic in Wilmington, Delaware presented with different complaints of vision loss with similar overall outcomes. Patient A was an 87-year-old woman who presented with dimming of vision on extreme left head turn. Dilated fundus examination found a retinal arterial emboli in the left eye (O.S.). Carotid duplex examination found 50% to 79% left internal carotid stenosis with no hemodynamic stenosis of the right internal carotid. Patient B was a 78-year-old woman who presented with a right superior altitudinal defect and transient vision loss in the right eye. Dilated fundus examination found retinal arterial emboli in the right eye (O.D.). Carotid duplex examination found 50% to 79% carotid stenosis in both the left and right internal carotids. Patient C was an 84-year-old man who complained of a superior altitudinal visual field defect O.D. Dilated fundus examination found a retinal arterial emboli O.D. Carotid duplex results showed calcified atherosclerotic plaques present at the level of the common carotid artery bifurcations bilaterally, with 50% to 70% narrowing of the right internal carotid artery with no significant narrowing of the left internal carotid artery.

CONCLUSIONS: These 3 presentations show that in patients older than 50 who present with chief complaints of monocular vision loss, a differential diagnosis of carotid artery disease must be considered. Patients who exhibit retinal arterial emboli are at increased risk for stroke and vascular death. Appropriate measures for confirming a diagnosis include duplex ultrasound imaging, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and carotid angiography. Surgical techniques such as carotid angioplasty and carotid endarterectomy may be recommended.

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