Chapter 54: Acute Visual Loss and Double Vision

Chapter 54: Acute Visual Loss and Double Vision is a topic covered in the Harrison's Manual of Medicine.

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Approach to the patient: Acute Visual Loss or Double Vision

Accurate measurement of visual acuity in each eye (with glasses or contact lenses) is of primary importance. Additional assessments include testing of pupils, eye movements, ocular alignment, and visual fields. Slit-lamp examination can exclude corneal infection, trauma, glaucoma, uveitis, and cataract. Ophthalmoscopic examination to inspect the optic disc and retina often requires pupillary dilation using 1% tropicamide and 2.5% phenylephrine; risk of provoking an attack of narrow-angle glaucoma is remote.

Visual field mapping by finger confrontation localizes lesions in the visual pathway (Fig. 54-1); formal testing using a perimeter may be necessary. The goal is to determine whether the lesion is anterior to, at, or posterior to the optic chiasm. A scotoma confined to one eye is caused by an anterior lesion affecting the optic nerve or globe; swinging flashlight test may reveal an afferent pupil defect (APD). History and ocular examination are usually sufficient for diagnosis. If a bitemporal hemianopia is present, lesion is located at optic chiasm (e.g., pituitary adenoma, meningioma). Homonymous visual field loss signals a retrochiasmal lesion affecting the optic tract, lateral geniculate body, optic radiations, or visual cortex (e.g., stroke, tumor, abscess). Neuroimaging is recommended for any pt with a bitemporal or homonymous hemianopia.

FIGURE 54-1
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Deficits in visual fields caused by lesions affecting visual pathways.

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