Retina Institute of Indiana, P.C.

Retinal Vascular Diseases


What is retinal vascular occlusion?
The so-called retinal vascular occlusion affects the eye, specifically the retina. An occlusion occurs when one of the veins or arteries carrying blood to or from the retina becomes blocked or contains a blood clot. The blockage could occur in the main vein or main artery. Blockages could also occur in the branch of veins and arteries throughout the retina.

A blockage in the vein or artery of the retina can cause blood or other fluids to build up and inhibit the retina’s ability to filter light properly. When light is blocked or fluids are present, sudden loss of vision can occur. The severity of vision loss may be dependent upon where the blockage or clot occurred. Blockages in the main vein or artery are often more serious than blockages in the branch veins or arteries.
Retinal vascular occlusion is a potentially serious condition, especially if hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) already exists.

Who is at risk of retinal vascular occlusion?
While the specific cause of vascular blockage or blood clots in the retina is unknown, there are several risk factors:
* blood clots (they often travel from elsewhere in the body to the eye)
* blockage or narrowing in the carotid arteries of the neck
* atherosclerosis
* heart problems, including irregular rhythm or valve issues
* diabetes
* high blood pressure
* high cholesterol
* drug use (when drugs are injected intravenously)
* being over the age of 60
* glaucoma (a condition that damages the optic nerve)
* smoking
* rare blood disorders
* macular edema (when the retina leaks fluid)

What are the symptoms of retinal vascular occlusion?

The primary symptom of retinal vascular occlusion is a sudden change in vision. This could be blurriness, partial loss of vision, or complete loss of vision. Most often the vision symptoms occur only in one eye. There is no physical pain associated with retinal vascular occlusion. The changes in eyesight could be short term or permanent, depending on your situation.

How is retinal vascular occlusion treated?

In some cases, retinal vascular occlusion is not treated, and many patients will regain most of their vision over time. You are not likely to regain full vision because the blockage in the vein or artery will still be there without treatment. To treat retinal vascular occlusion, your doctor may recommend medication such as blood thinners or injections into the eye. Another option is laser therapy to break down the blockage in the blood vessels.