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Amaurosis Fugax

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Fleeting blindness

  • Emboli (blood clots) travel from the carotid artery (near the heart) to the retinal arteries, thereby blocking the blood supply to the part of the eye known as the retina, and resulting in vision loss.  In young patients, spasm of the retinal arteries blocks the blood supply.

  • A "curtain" appears to pass down over the visual field, causing complete loss of vision in the affected eye that lasts a few minutes.

  • Atherosclerosis (cholesterol plaques) form in the carotid arteries, causing the narrowing of the arteries.  Emboli made of blood or cholesterol may then be released, blocking the retinal arteries.
  • Blood clots from heart valves or the heart itself due to underlying heart disease
  • Retinal vascular spasm in younger individuals

  • Examination by ophthalmologist
  • Tests:
    1. Doppler or ultrasound of carotid arteries
    2. MRA (similar to MRI but evaluates carotid arteries)
    3. Carotid angiography (dye test of the carotid arteries)
    4. Echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart)

  • Immediate evaluation by an ophthalmologist
  • Treatment of underlying causes which -- if due to carotid artery disease -- may include anti-platelet medications (e.g., aspirin, Plavix) or carotid endarterectomy (surgically removing cholesterol plaque in the carotid artery).
  • If due to heart disease, treatment will depend on the specific cause.


  • Special Considerations

- Amaurosis Fugax may be a warning sign for an impending stroke, or may be a sign of underlying heart disease.  It therefore needs careful evaluation by an ophthalmologist and your primary care physician.






more about Amaurosis Fugax


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