Retinal Vein Occlusion

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Retinal vein occlusion is a blockage of a vein that drains blood from the retina, the part of the eye responsible for collecting and sending information about light to the brain. This can happen when arteries that pump blood to the retina become hardened as a result of high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

The arteries press on the vein, causing the vein to burst. If the vein bursts, it can impair blood flow to and decrease the oxygen in the retina. Decreased oxygen can cause new, abnormal, and damaging blood vessels to grow.

There are two types of retinal vein occlusion:

  • Branch retinal vein occlusion – a portion of the circulation is blocked
  • Central retinal vein occlusion – the retinal vein located at the optic nerve is blocked

Your ophthalmologist will discuss your symptoms and give you a complete eye exam. He or she will conduct a number of tests in order to understand the type and severity of the occlusion.

Common tests your doctor may use include:

  • Gonioscopy – determines if fluid is properly draining out of your eye 
  • Fluorescein angiography – determines the amount of damage to your eye
  • Visual fields – tests your peripheral vision
  • Optical coherence tomography – examines the thickness of the retina

In many cases, the only treatment that is necessary is your ophthalmologist’s observation and monitoring. For an uncomplicated vein occlusion, typical follow-up is a visit to the doctor every four weeks for six months. If the occlusion causes new blood vessels to grow, additional medical or laser treatment may be needed.

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