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Retinal vein occlusion and retinal artery occlusion | Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Retinal vein or artery occlusion occurs when blood vessels carrying blood to or from the retina get blocked – this can cause partial or total vision loss. 

If you have questions about retinal vein or artery occlusion and the treatment options that are available, please call us on 0203 369 2020, or request a call back.

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What is retinal vein occlusion and retinal artery occlusion?

Retinal vein occlusion

Retinal vein occlusion occurs when one of the veins draining blood from the retina gets blocked, resulting in blood and other fluids leaking into the retina, causing swelling and damage. This can result in the painless blurring or loss of vision in the affected eye which can occur suddenly.

Retinal artery occlusion

Retinal artery occlusion occurs from the blockage of one of the arteries supplying blood to the retina. This results in a lack of oxygen reaching the retina, and as a result the cells in the retina start to die. This causes a sudden and painless loss of vision in the affected eye.

What are the symptoms of retinal vein occlusion and retinal artery occlusion?

Symptoms of retinal vein occlusion

There are sometimes no symptoms but depending on the severity of the occlusion, symptoms can include blurred vision, partial or complete loss of vision, and floaters in the vision. In most cases only one eye is affected.

Symptoms of retinal artery occlusion

Retinal artery occlusion is usually painless. Symptoms usually affect only one eye and include a sudden loss of vision, and blurry vision.

What causes retinal vein occlusion and retinal artery occlusion?

Causes of retinal vein occlusion

Retinal vein occlusion is usually caused by a blood clot. Other conditions can increase the likelihood of a retinal vein occlusion occurring, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Causes of retinal artery occlusion

Retinal artery occlusion can also occur due to a blood clot or cholesterol in the artery. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

What is the difference between central and branch retinal vein and retinal artery occlusion?

Differences between central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) and branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO)

Central retinal vein occlusion involves the blockage of the main retinal vein that drains blood from the whole retina. In comparison to this, branch retinal vein occlusion is a blockage of one of the branch veins which drain blood from only part of the retina. As a result, the loss of vision is more severe when the central retinal vein is blocked.

Differences between central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO) and branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO)

The central retinal artery would supply blood to the whole retina, while the branch arteries only supply blood to part of the retina. As with retinal vein occlusion, a central retinal artery occlusion would be more severe than a branch retinal artery occlusion.

What are the treatment options for retinal vein and retinal artery occlusion?

Treatment options for retinal vein occlusion

While it’s not possible to unblock a blocked retinal vein, the complications from retinal vein occlusion can be treated to improve vision.

  • Intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF drugs stop the leakage of blood and other fluids that cause swelling of the central retina and growth of abnormal blood vessels, preventing further damage to the retina as well as potentially improving vision
  • Laser treatment remove any abnormal blood vessels that develop on the retina

Treatment options for retinal artery occlusion

  • As the blockage of the retinal artery reduces oxygen reaching the retina, hyperbaric (high-pressure) oxygen therapy can help to increase the oxygen intake to keep the retina healthy until blood flow returns to normal
  • Medication or an eye massage can be used to try and remove the blood clot
  • Eye pressure can be reduced using medication or removing some fluid from the eye using a needle

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If you have any questions around retinal vein or artery occlusion or our service, please feel free to make an enquiry or call us on 0203 369 2020