Retinal Vein & Artery Occlusion
The retinal vasculature is a system of arteries, veins, and branches that cycles a steady supply of blood and oxygen to the retina, giving it the power it needs to function properly. When any of these blood vessels become blocked or obstructed, it is known as a retinal occlusion.
Some patients are at a greater risk of developing a retinal vascular occlusive disease than others. These risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Blood clotting disorders
- Inflammatory conditions
Types of Retinal Vein & Artery Occlusion
There are different types of retinal occlusion that have different levels of severity on vision. Some retinal occlusions can also be a harbinger of an impending medical emergency. Types of retinal occlusion are defined by where they occur in the retinal vasculature.
Central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO): CRAO is when an obstruction occurs in the central retinal artery, often stemming from a blood clot in the carotid artery located in the neck. The symptoms of CRAO include sudden vision loss or complete blurriness in one eye or the steady loss of vision in one eye over the course of several weeks. CRAO is sometimes referred to as an eye stroke and can indicate that a patient will experience a cerebral stroke or cardiovascular event in the near future.
Branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO): BRAO is when an obstruction occurs in one of the branches of the central retinal artery, typically causing a sudden loss of peripheral vision, blurriness, and blind spots in your field of vision.
Central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO): CRVO is when an obstruction occurs in the central retinal vein. CRVO can be classified as being ischemic or non-ischemic. Ischemic CRVO is more severe and involves neovascularization (i.e. the growth of abnormal blood vessels) in response to the retinal blood vessels being closed off. Non-ischemic CRVO is milder and is typically characterized by the presence of leaking retinal blood vessels and macular edema. Non-ischemic CRVO causes blurred vision, while ischemic CRVO can cause permanent vision problems.
Branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO): BRVO is when an obstruction occurs in one or more of the retinal vein branches that extend through the optic nerve, leading to bleeding and leakage in the retina. Symptoms of BRVO can include distorted central vision, blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, and floaters. In some cases, there may be no noticeable symptoms.
Treatment for Retinal Vein & Artery Occlusion
Retinal vein and artery occlusions are typically treated in one of the following ways:
- Injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications: Anti-VEGFs are medications that inhibit neovascularization. The most commonly used anti-VEGF medications include Avastin, Eylea, and Lucentis. This vision-saving treatment is injected directly into the eye after the eyes have been numbed with special eye drops.
- Laser therapy: Laser surgery is sometimes recommended to weld-seal leaking blood vessels. Lasers can also be used to break up blood clots.
- Managing underlying conditions: In some cases, retinal vascular occlusive diseases are best treated by tackling the underlying conditions and risk factors that are causing or exacerbating the issue.
Schedule a Consultation
The retina specialists of North Carolina Retina Associates have extensive experience diagnosing, managing, and treating all forms of retinal vein and artery occlusion. Visit us today for comprehensive retinal care.