Retinal vein occlusion is a blockage of the small veins that carry blood away from the retina. The retina is the layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye that converts light images to nerve signals and sends them to the brain.
Central retinal vein occlusion; Branch retinal vein occlusion; CRVO; BRVO
Retinal vein occlusion is most often caused by hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and the formation of a blood clot.
Blockage of smaller veins (branch veins or BRVO) in the retina often occurs in places where retinal arteries that have been thickened or hardened by atherosclerosis cross over and place pressure on a retinal vein.
Blood tests for diabetes, high cholesterol, and triglyceride levels
Blood tests to look for a clotting or blood thickening (hyperviscosity) problem (in patients under age 40)
The health care provider will closely monitor any blockage for several months. It may take 3 or more months for harmful effects such as glaucoma to develop after the occlusion.
Many people will regain vision, even without treatment. However, vision rarely returns to normal. There is no way to reverse or open the blockage.
You may need treatment to prevent another blockage from forming in the same or the other eye.
It's important to manage diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. Some people may need to take aspirin or other blood thinners.
Treatment for the complications of retinal vein occlusion may include:
Focal laser treatment, if macular edema is present
Injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs into the eye. These drugs may block the growth of new blood vessels that can cause glaucoma. This treatment is still being studied.
Laser treatment to prevent the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels that leads to glaucoma
The outcome varies. Patients with retinal vein occlusion often regain useful vision.
It is important to properly manage conditions such as macular edema and glaucoma. However, having either of these complications is more likely to lead to a poor outcome.
Partial or complete vision loss in the affected eye
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have sudden blurring or vision loss.
Retinal vein occlusion is a sign of a general blood vessel (vascular) disease. Measures used to prevent other blood vessel diseases may decrease the risk of retinal vein occlusion.
These measures include:
Eating a low-fat diet
Getting regular exercise
Maintaining an ideal weight
Aspirin or other blood thinners may help prevent blockages in the other eye.
Controlling diabetes may help prevent retinal vein occlusion.
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Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.