World Stroke Day: research to retrain the eyes

New study to show if treatment to ‘retrain the eyes’ can help those with sight loss caused by stroke

Eye research charity Fight for Sight is partnering with the Stroke Association to test the effectiveness of a treatment for ‘retraining’ the eyes for people who experience a loss of vision after stroke. The study hopes to establish a new standard of care for stroke survivors and save the NHS money.

The charities have announced funding for the project on World Stroke Day (October 29th, 2020).

Hemianopia – the loss of vision or blindness in half the visual field on the right or left side – occurs suddenly in 30% of stroke survivors and can have a devastating impact on their quality of life. Currently, there is no cure and treatment to help those with hemianopia compensate for their sight loss is variable and not standardised in the NHS. This is due to uncertainty about what works best and when is the best time to offer treatment, resulting in unfair differences in the care people receive.

A child sleeping in a dog bed Description automatically generatedTara Playle had a stroke at the age of 24 that severely affected her sight. She said: “I had to surrender my driving licence and am at risk of tripping due to my limited sight so have to take extra care when I walk about.

“My limited vision is a hidden result of my stroke as my eyes appear normal. But losing my sight has been a key factor that has taken away my independence. Any research that can better treatment for sight loss due to stroke would be invaluable, and I believe if treatment enabled my sight to be improved I would be able to do a lot more and rely less on other people.”

Visual scanning training encourages stroke survivors to look into the ‘blind’ side of their visual field. This can improve a stroke survivors adaptation to loss of vision. They are asked to repeatedly practice locating targets in both the ‘seeing’ and ‘blind’ sides of their visual field. This study, which will be run by researchers at the University of Liverpool, was designed with the help of five stroke survivors and will use paper-based visual scanning training as it is cost-effective, available to all stroke survivors and it allows them to practice training at home.

In the study, a group of 71 stroke survivors that receive eye scanning training will be compared to a group of stroke survivors that don’t. They’ll be followed for six months to see if the treatment can improve vision, and independence in everyday activities. All the information will be collected during routine eye clinic visits.

Professor Fiona Rowe from the University of Liverpool is leading the study. She said: “This study builds on an initial promising pilot trial and addresses an area of treatment for which there is limited ev