Retinal Vein Occlusion

Retinal vein occlusions (RVOs) occur when small veins in the retina suddenly close off for a period of time. This leads to a sudden increase in blood pressure in the affected area of the retina that causes blood to spill out of the veins into the retinal tissue, often damaging part retina. RVOs can vary greatly in their severity. Sometimes vision is not affected, other times it can be severely affected.

Vision loss with RVOs can occur due to the blood vessels in the retina closing off permanently (ischemia). Vision may also be affected by blood vessels becoming leaky. Serum (clear fluid within the blood) can leak from these blood vessels into the retina making it thick and swollen and allowing proteins and fats to accumulate in the retina. When this retinal swelling occurs in the center of the retina, it can make the vision very blurry (macular edema). Macular edema can often be treated with eye injections or with laser.

Sometimes abnormal blood vessels can start growing in the eye after an RVO. This complication is termed neovascularization. It can lead to bleeding in the eye or even high eye pressure (termed neovascular glaucoma) that can lead to severe vision loss or pain. If this condition is diagnosed in the early stages treatments with laser or eye injections can often limit further damage to the eye. If you have developed an RVO, your eye should be evaluated regularly, especially for the first year in order to detect and treat neovascularization.

Patients who develop RVOs are more likely to have other conditions in the rest of their body such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. Patients with RVOs should be see their primary care provider to check their general health and assess for these possible conditions, if this has not been done recently.