Asheesh Tewari, MD the Retina Expert :: Patient Education
Patient Education :: Retinal Vein Occlusions

What is a retinal vein occlusion?

A blockage or occlusion in the vein in the retina can occur in either a branch of the main vein or in the main vein itself. In the eye there is an artery that brings blood to the eye, and there is a vein that takes blood away from the eye. The artery lies on top of the vein. In some patients, the artery on top can become thicker and heavier due to high blood pressure and it can press on the vein that is running underneath it. This will cause leakage of blood and fluid into the retina.

What are the types of retinal vein occlusion?

One type is called a branch retinal vein occlusion and another is called a central retinal vein occlusion. A branch retinal vein occlusion affects a small part of the retina, while a central retinal vein occlusion affects the entire retina.

What are the symptoms of a retinal vein occlusion?

The main symptom is blurred vision. This occurs most commonly due to excess fluid that leaks from the vein and collects in the macula. Sometimes pain in the eye can occur due to the complication of a central retinal vein occlusion caused by excessive eye pressure from neovascular glaucoma. Floaters can also appear during the blockage of a vein. These can be due to the growth of abnormal blood vessels, which are fragile and may bleed into the vitreous with gel-like fluid that fills the central part of the vision.

What treatment is available for a retinal vein occlusion?

Although there is no cure for a retinal vein occlusion, laser surgery can improve sight in some patients who have fluid build-up in the macula. Unfortunately, the vision does not usually return to normal. Laser surgery is also very effective in preventing the growth of new blood vessels in vein occlusions and the prevention of glaucoma. If there has been bleeding in the eye, the laser surgery does not remove that bleeding but decreases the chances of re-bleeding. In some cases, newer laser techniques and even surgery can be used to improve the vision in a certain select group of patients. The decision regarding treatment is determined on an individual basis.