If You Suddenly Lose Vision in One Eye

don’t continue with your grocery shopping, then drive yourself home, then take yourself to the emergency room. Call 911 immediately or have someone with you call them. Tell them you might be having a stroke.

A week ago now, I stopped off at the grocery store for three things – blueberries, bananas and a piece of salmon for dinner. Literally between one step and the next, I lost the vision in my right eye. There was no pain, no dizziness, no warning…just like someone had drawn a gray curtain in front of my eye. Vision in the left eye was still fine. It was nothing like the aura I sometimes get with migraines, which is a bunch of annoying squiggly little lines in the middle of my entire field of vision.

“That’s odd,” I said, as I kept walking toward the fish counter. I blinked hard, I tried rubbing my eye. No matter what I did, the vision remained gray in that eye. I got the fish, checked out, went to my car and drove home. My vision began to clear, slowly at first, then snapped back fine before I reached my condo. I’d been blind in one eye for fifteen to twenty minutes by then. Looking back, I can’t believe I was so calm. Or so dumb (driving with one eye not working???WTF?) I think the episode must have been affecting my thinking processes, or else I was in denial and/or shock. I also think that something that clears itself up and has no pain associated with it seems dangerously benign and safe to ignore.

Before I settled in to start some social media surfing, I did a little google searching on detached retina, because I have a friend who suffered one years ago. The medical advice websites did mention graying of vision as a symptom and said unequivocally to go to the nearest ER. Sort of grudgingly, I drove myself to the ER.  YES, I have now been admonished over and over how not-sensible that was and I’ll never do it again. What if I’d had a stroke on the freeway? Or lost vision in both eyes? Never even occurred to me that afternoon. I’m invincible, right?

Whoosh, I was seen by the triage nurse, no wait. That was nice, but odd since the ER as extremely busy that day….Ensconced in a bed, I saw probably every neurologist in the hospital over the next three days. Curiously enough that first few hours they didn’t seem very interested in my eye. They did a lot of listening to my neck, to the carotid arteries. They tested my reflexes…after an hour or two on Thursday, one of the wonderful doctors could tell I wasn’t understanding what was going on – naive me, I stubbornly thought the temporary loss of vision was my biggest problem –  and he explained I had most likely had amaurosis fugax – a piece of plaque in my neck had broken off and traveled to block my optic nerve. It’s evidently a classic symptom of carotid artery disease. VERY scary stuff. As I understand it with my layperson’s knowledge, I could have been having a stroke, or a stroke could have happened very shortly thereafter.  I could still have a stroke, except hopefully the new medicines I’ve been on for the last week will lower those odds.

I had three cat scans, two ultrasounds, and a full MRI, not to mention other tests. I’m a pin cushion but not complaining.

I’ve been joking that it took me to the second day before I started telling people I was an author and handing out my bookmarks (which I always have in my purse). I had a wonderful night nurse who was a younger, hotter version of Joe Manganiello and we joked about me doing research for my romance novels and he made sure I wasn’t terrified for my midnight MRI. But even though I can find the humor in any situation because that’s just me and how I copeit was scary and stressful and tense and and all kinds of other emotions. The fact that my most recent novel features a heroine who is blind seemed like an uncanny coincidence, let me tell you.

All the doctors, nurses and staff I came into contact with during my stay at the hospital were extremely professional, but also kind and caring. Kudos to Kaiser Permanente! I’m a huge fan…

My daughters rallied around and have been wonderful, my brother and my best friend as well…I’m back to work now, adjusting to the medicines and a lot of side effects. I’ve been told in no uncertain terms after a second trip to the ER on Sunday that I have to find a way to manage the side effects, short of bleeding, because my risk of stroke is so high right now. We won’t talk about the anxiety attacks and how I was afraid to even read for awhile because I was so terrified that gray curtain would drop over my vision again…as if the mere act of using my eyes was going to trigger it.

I did write a few hundred words on the ancient Egyptian WIP the other night, and it was lovely to feel the gears click and the writing happen, like it always does…but I’m taking it pretty easy on all the things right now.

The cats of course were highly disdainful when I returned home. How dare I abandon them for three days? (My daughters fed and petted them for me each day, no worries there.) Keanu gets over the snit in five minutes and Jake can sustain the hauteur for about half an hour before he MUST be petted.

So, public service announcement, know the symptoms of a stroke (from the National Stroke Association):

  • SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
  • SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes, or double vision.
  • SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.

Call 911 if you have even ONE of these symptoms. Better a false alarm than a stroke. OK?

29 comments on “If You Suddenly Lose Vision in One Eye

  1. Veronica, what a frightening position to be in. You seem to have handled it all like a champ though. Glad to hear your vision cleared, and you are not having any permanent effects of a stroke. Listen to those doctors and take it easy until you get your feet back under you and you feel sound. I work in rehab, in physical therapy, so the title of the post caught my eye. I’m just so glad you are catching things now and are able to make some changes to prevent further damage. I’ll be praying for you : )

    • Thanks, Millie! I just figured I should blog about this in case even one person reads it and later knows to call 911, either for themself or for someone else who might be having possible stroke symptoms. I was lucky, no doubt. Prayers and good wishes much appreciated! Hug to you…

  2. That sounds very scary. Glad you are in drs care.
    Thank you for sharing and the information. I was not aware of the vision issue either.

    • I know, vegan here we both come, right? I just felt I should share the experience here because I’d never heard about the vision symptoms and if it helps one person down the line get help quicker, that’ll be wonderful.

  3. hi veronica
    so happy you are doing well. luckily you had very good doctors. when this happened to me more than once in 1988 when i was 38 no one paid any attention to me. doctors told me migraine, also that i was a hypochondriac.
    it was very stressful indeed when a few months after the 3rd time it happened i did have a stroke and could not walk or talk or use my arm for months. even then a dumb neurologist told my husband i was faking! i had two small children and could not remain that way.
    i had a friend who just became a chiropractor and he helped me rehabilitate so i could walk and talk and remain active from age 38 to now at age 63 I have had a few more strokes but were not as bad as the first one, they are calling them TIAs now.
    I will keep you in my prayers.

  4. Wow, I’m so sorry to hear all that happened to you! I *was* lucky to have great doctors who didn’t just write this off as a migraine, you’re so right.I didn’t appreciate that enough at the time, I can see now from what you kindly shared. Thank you for the prayers, which I deeply appreciate and I’m sending hugs to you.

  5. Oh my, Veronica. I’m so glad you’re okay and that you had great care. Sounds like you’re making some great forward movement in your new normal. Pretty cool.
    Thank you for the lesson too.
    Just over 15 years ago, my dad stayed home from work because he wasn’t feeling well. He mowed the lawn for a bit and felt worse. So, he called his doctor and was then instructed to get to the ER. He drove himself because no one else was home. Anyways, that evening he had a quadruple bypass. We still tease him about it. Glad we can. 🙂

    • Glad your Dad is ok! Yes, sometimes we stubborn people manage to take ourselves to the ER whether we should drive or not so I totally sympathize with him on that decision. Gotta do what needs done. The ER staff was really appalled that I hadn’t called 911 right there in the grocery store. My daughters are used to me just picking up and going, but now I do have to be more careful, for sure. Thanks for the good wishes!

    • Thanks, all good wishes gratefully accepted. I’m doing ok, better by the day. I’m so grateful for the medicines (even with side effects) that will hopefully keep this or worse from happening to me again. Hugs!

  6. So sorry to read this about my fellow author who loves the badass drummer in 70s bands. Please take care of yourself and thanks for all the medical tips. A thousand hugs.

  7. Wow, Veronica, that is extremely scary! I’m glad you did the research and went to the ER rather than just letting it go. Happy you’re on the mend now, but take it easy, still. *hugs*

    • It was so touch and go, whether I went to the ER or not…didn’t seem “worth it” BUT now I know better and if I’d read even once somewhere that this symptom could be a stroke, I would have called 911 from the grocery store. So I thought I needed to write the post. Hugs back, thank you for the good wishes!

  8. Holy moly! I am glad you made it home and to the ER in one piece and that everyone was nice and professional. I hope you and the medication find a way to work together. Thank you for sharing and big hugs!

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  10. Veronica, we are sisters under the skin, in so many ways. I’ve worried about you all week, sick myself due to an unexplained rise in TSH count. All summer, walking around like a zombie, sad, depressed unlike the cheerleader I still am. Now I’ve seen an endocrinologist who elevated the synthroid a bit and I’ll see him in a few weeks for a follow-up. So Yikes to these super scary episodes in life. and pray for the best. Love from me in NY.

    • Thank you and sending more good wishes and prayers to you, plus hugs. I hope the doctor having adjusted the levels will give you back all your energy! I’m still getting used to the meds, Yesterday was a bad day but hopefully today will go better. One day at a time, I think. I was born in Syracuse, NY, did I ever mention that? We ARE NY sisters LOL!

  11. Veronica, you’ve done everyone a great service by writing about your very scary experience, thank you (I tweeted it). I am so glad you did pursue it (even though you shouldn’t have driven yourself…) and get the medical treatment you needed. Hope the adjustment to the meds will go easy and even more so, hoping for your continued health.

    • Thank you for the good wishes! I just knew that if I had ever once read that losing the sight in one eye, even temporarily, was maybe a stroke and certainly an emergency, I would have at least gone to the ER sooner. Now of course I’ll call 911! But I felt I needed to share the story for that reason. HUGS to you my friend! Thanks for tweeting it too…

  12. Thank you for this post. Several weeks ago I had a very wierd, only one eye, vision problem. I told myself it had to be a funny migraine, at worst another retina problem, and then when it was gone by bedtime I dismissed it and didn’t even call my doctors. I was certainly scolded when I did mention it.

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