A retinal vein occlusion is an eye condition that typically affects older adults over fifty, especially those in their sixties and seventies. It’s the second most common cause of blood vessel-related vision loss after diabetic retinopathy.
While vision loss from a retinal vein occlusion may not be able to be recovered, timely diagnosis and treatment can help protect your remaining vision. Keep reading to learn more about retinal vein occlusions, how it affects your vision, and how it’s treated!
Retinal Vein Occlusion
The retina is located at the back of your eye. It converts light that enters your eye into electrical signals and sends them to your brain, which enables you to see.
Small blood vessels provide your retina with nutrients and oxygen. Arteries are responsible for delivering blood, while retinal veins drain the blood from your retina.
At times, retinal arteries may swell or harden and press on a vein next to them. The vein might then develop a blockage or occlusion, leading to poor blood flow in your retina and bleeding.
This blockage is called a retinal vein occlusion (RVO). You may experience the following symptoms if you have retinal vein occlusion:
- Blurry or missing area of vision
- Sudden, painless vision loss
- Abrupt increase in floaters
What Are the Types of Retinal Vein Occlusions?
There are two forms of retinal vein occlusions: branch and central retinal vein occlusions.
Central Retinal Vein Occlusion
As the name suggests, a central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) is caused by a blockage in the main or central retinal vein that carries away the blood from your retina. The blockage causes poor blood flow in your retina and bleeding.
Mild CRVO may have no signs. However, you could experience symptoms like distorted or blurry vision due to the swelling of your macula.
Severe CRVO can cause redness, irritation, and pain.
Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion
A branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO) is more common than CRVO. It only affects one branch of the central retinal vein and occurs when the branch vein is blocked.
The blockage causes hemorrhaging and poor blood flow in the part of the retina drained by that specific branch retinal vein. BRVO doesn’t cause pain and has no noticeable loss of vision.
Because of this, it’s vital to have routine eye examinations to catch the condition early if possible.
What Are Some of the Risk Factors for Retinal Vein Occlusion?
Some of the risk factors for RVO are:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
How Do Retinal Vein Occlusions Cause Vision Loss?
RVO may affect your vision in the following ways:
A retinal vein occlusion can cause your retina to form abnormal blood vessels. This is known as neovascularization.
These new abnormal vessels are weak and can leak fluid and blood into your vitreous, which is the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the inside of your eye.
Floaters may appear in your field of vision due to neovascularization. When the condition is severe, your retina can detach from the back of your eye.
The macula is found at the center of your retina. It’s responsible for your sharp, straight-ahead vision.
Blood and fluid can leak out of a retinal vein that is occluded. With no place to go, the fluid and blood may seep into your macula, causing swelling.
The swelling is called macula edema, which causes blurred vision and, in severe cases, vision loss.
New abnormal blood vessels in some parts of your eye can lead to increased pressure inside your eye, also called neovascular glaucoma. Neovascular glaucoma is a form of secondary glaucoma, meaning it results from something else.
The symptoms of neovascular glaucoma may include redness, pain, and vision loss.
Without treatment, the complications of retinal vein occlusion can lead to permanent vision loss.
What Are the Treatment Options for Retinal Vein Occlusions?
There’s still no cure for retinal vein occlusion because there’s no way to open blocked veins. Many people recover their eyesight even without treatment but rarely does vision return to normal.
Retinal vein occlusion treatment will depend on the severity of the occlusion and the location of the blocked vein. Eye doctors emphasize treating your symptoms, preventing further vision loss, and risk management.
It’s critical to control the following conditions if you have them:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
You should also consider making the following lifestyle changes:
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a low-fat diet
Some of the treatments used in RVO include:
A laser may be used to prevent the formation of new, abnormal blood vessels that can cause glaucoma.
Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor or anti-VEGF injections are often the first line of treatment for macular edema. Vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, is a protein in your eyes that creates and repairs blood vessels.
However, an overproduction of VEGF may lead to the development of abnormal blood vessels that can cause vision loss. Anti-VEGF medications are injected into your eye to block VEGF.
This reduces the growth of new blood vessels and swelling. The treatment has to be repeated at regular intervals.
Anti-VEGF injections have proven to prevent severe vision loss that can happen without treatment.
Focal Laser Treatment
Focal laser treatment is used if macula edema is present. During the treatment, your doctor applies many small laser pulses to the leaking blood vessels.
The laser pulses help seal off the abnormal vessels that cause damage to the macula.
Save Your Sight from Retinal Vein Occlusion
With timely diagnosis and treatment at Joshi Retina Institute, you can preserve your remaining vision even after a retinal vein occlusion. However, this is only possible through frequent eye examinations.
Have you had an eye exam recently? If not, schedule an appointment at Joshi Eye Institute in Boynton Beach, FL, today to protect your sight!