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Retinal Vein & Artery Occlusions

What is retinal vascular occlusion?

Your retina—the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of your eye—requires a constant supply of blood to receive nutrients and oxygen and to remove waste produced by the retina. If one of the vessels carrying blood to or from the retina becomes blocked or has a blood clot, this is called an occlusion. Occlusions can cause fluid build up that prevents the retina from filtering light properly, resulting in a sudden loss of vision. The extent of vision loss may depend on where the blockage or clot occurred.

Retinal vascular occlusion is a potentially serious condition, especially if artery hardening already exists. It most often occurs in middle-aged and older people.

What are the different types of retinal vascular occlusion?

  • Retinal artery occlusion: This is a blockage of one of the retinal arteries, which carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the retina. A blockage in the main artery of your retina is called a central retinal artery occlusion. A blockage occurring further along in the smaller branches of the artery is called a branch retinal artery occlusion.
  • Retinal vein occlusion: Retinal vein occlusion is blockage of one of your retinal veins, which carry deoxygenated blood back to your heart. Blockage in the main vein (which is generally more serious) is called central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO). Blockage in a smaller branch of retinal veins is called branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO).

What are symptoms of retinal vascular occlusion?

A sudden change in vision (blurry vision or partial/complete loss of vision) in one or both eyes is the primary symptom of retinal vascular occlusion.

Depending on how quickly you seek treatment and on your individual health, the changes in eyesight could be short term or permanent.

You should make an appointment with your ophthalmologist right away if you experience any changes in your vision.

 

How can I prevent retinal vascular occlusion?

Certain lifestyle and dietary changes to protect your blood vessels and keep your heart healthy may help prevent retinal vascular occlusion. These changes include:

  • exercising
  • losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight
  • eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat
  • not smoking or quitting smoking
  • keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level

Routine checkups with your primary care physicians as well as annual eye exams can help you learn whether or not you have any of the risk factors of retinal vascular occlusion.