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Retinal Vein Occlusion

Retinal vein occlusion is a blockage in one of the veins that carry blood away from the retina, the light-sensitive layer of nerve tissue lining the back of the eye. Retinal vein occlusion is most often caused by hardening of the arteries and the formation of a blood clot. Blockage of smaller branch veins in the retina may occur when retinal arteries that have been hardened cross over and place pressure on one of the smaller retinal veins.

Risk factors for retinal vein occlusion include atherosclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain eye conditions, such as glaucoma, macular edema, or vitreous hemorrhage. Retinal vein occlusion can also lead to other eye conditions, such as glaucoma and macular edema.

The main symptom of retinal vein occlusion is sudden blurring or vision loss in all or part of one eye.

Evaluation for retinal vein occlusion may include the following: Vision testing, dilated exam of the eye, angiography, measurement of intraocular pressure, pupil exam, retinal imaging, and visual field exam. Other tests may include, blood tests for diabetes, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and abnormal blood clotting levels.

Many people will regain vision, even without treatment. However, vision may not return to normal. 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 patients may receive aspirin or other blood thinners.

Treatment for the complications of retinal vein occlusion may include:

  • Focal laser treatment for macular edema
  • 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.
  • Laser treatment to prevent abnormal blood vessel growth that can lead to glaucoma
  • Retinal vein occlusion is a sign of vascular disease. The same measures used to prevent other blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease, may decrease the risk of retinal vein occlusion.

It is important to call or see your eye or general health care provider immediately if you have any sudden blurring of vision or vision loss.