On this page:
Why do vision problems occur?
What kind of vision problems do people have?
Can vision problems get better?
Are there treatments that can help?
How can your taste and smell change after stroke?
Why does it occur?
Can it improve?
Are there any treatments that can help?
Find out more 

Sensory problems can have a real impact on every day life, affecting the way we see, eat and drink.

It's estimated that 60% of stroke survivors have vision problems immediately after their stroke, which reduces to about 20% after three months. 

Why do vision problems occur?

Vision problems happen because of damage to your brain. 

If the part of your brain that controls and receives information from your eyes is affected by your stroke, then this can cause problems with your vision.

If you had vision problems (such as cataracts or glaucoma) before your stroke, this can add to the way your vision is affected. 

What kind of vision problems do people have?

There are four main types of problems that you can have with your vision after a stroke:

  • Your visual field is everything you can see – from straight ahead to everything around it and to the sides. Central vision loss is when the centre of your visual field is affected. It may mean that you can’t see anything at all, or that you can only see things on the edge of where you are looking, not in the centre. 
  • Visual field loss is when other parts of your visual field are affected. Some people find that they lose one side of their visual field, so they can only see the right or left half of what they are looking at. This is called hemianopia and is a common visual problem after stroke.
  • Sometimes a stroke can affect the way you control your eyes, causing eye movement problems. This may make moving from looking at one thing to another difficult or affect the way you judge distances between objects. It can also mean that your eye is constantly moving so that objects seem to wobble. This is called nystagmus.
  • A stroke can also affect the way your brain processes the information it receives from your eyes. This can cause a number of visual processing problems. The most common of these problems is visual neglect. It happens when your brain does not receive information about what you are seeing on one side. So you may not be aware of anything on either your right or left side. This means that you may accidentally ignore people, or you may bump into things because you don’t realise that they are there. 

Problems with vision can sometimes be missed, so if you think your vision may have changed after your stroke, talk to your doctor. 

Can vision problems get better?

Like other effects of stroke, vision problems do often improve with time. 

Having trouble with your vision can be distressing, but even if you are left with long-term problems there is a lot that can be done to help you adjust to the changes.

Are there treatments that can help?

There are different treatments for different vision problems. An orthoptist (an eye care specialist) or ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specialises in eye diseases) can talk through the different options and advise the treatments that may be best for you.
 
Central vision and visual field loss can often be treated with optical aids. This includes magnifiers, which increases the size of what you are looking at, and minifiers, which help you to concentrate on the areas you can see. 
 
Using a plastic prism on a pair of glasses can help to widen your field of view. Prisms can sometimes help with eye movement problems as well, as can eye patches.
 
You can also learn compensation strategies to help you cope with or ‘work around’ your vision problems. If you have lost some of your visual field, for example, then with visual scanning training you can train yourself you to be more aware of your blind side and remind you to look towards it. 

How can your taste and smell change after stroke?

A stroke can affect your taste in a number of different ways, so you may:
  • not be able to taste things as well as you did before, so flavours may not be as obvious or strong
  • get a salty, bad or metallic taste in your mouth
  • lose your sense of taste completely.
If a stroke affects your sense of smell you may:
  • not be able to smell things as well as you did before, so smells may not be as strong
  • become oversensitive to smell, so that smells become really strong
  • have a distorted sense of smell
  • lose your sense of smell completely.

Why does it occur?

Your taste and smell can change because of damage to your brain
 
If the part of your brain that controls and receives information from your senses is affected by your stroke, then this can cause problems with your taste and/or smell.
 
Other problems can also add to these changes. Although it can be difficult to maintain good oral hygiene when you’ve had a stroke, if your teeth and mouth aren’t clean and healthy this can affect your sense of taste. virus or infection can also have an effect on your sense of taste and smell. 

Can it improve?

Problems with taste or smell can be very frustrating to live with and they may mean that you don't enjoy eating and drinking as much as you did before. However, many people find that they do improve over time.

Even if you are left with long term problems, there are things that can help you cope and limit the impact it has on your life.

Are there any treatments that can help?

There aren’t any specific treatments that can help to correct your sense of taste or smell. 
 
However, if your taste or smell has changed since your stroke you should talk to your GP. They can check if there may be anything else that could be causing the problems, such as your medication or other conditions.
 
They will also be able to refer you to a dietitian or an otolaryngologist (a doctor that specialises in nose and throat problems) for advice. 

Find out more

  • Visual problems after stroke - our leaflet explaining the different vision problems that can happen after stroke and where you can get information and support in our leaflet.
  • Rare effects of stroke - our leaflet including helpful tips when dealing with taste problems.

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