What is Retinal Vascular Occlusion?

Retinal vascular occlusion is a very serious condition which affects the eye, and especially the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive layer which is present at the back of the eye and is covered with special cells called as Rods and Cones. The Rods and cones converts light into neural signals and then sends them to the brain which helps one to see. Retina, as it is well known, is the vital part of the eye for vision.

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Similar to any other organ, the eye also receives the blood and oxygen flow through the blood vessels. Retina requires a sufficient amount of blood supply with enough nutrients and oxygen for the cells. When the vessels carrying blood to and from the retina is blocked due to a blood clot, it is known as occlusion. Retinal vascular occlusion can cause the fluid buildup or blood accumulation in the eye which prevents proper filtering of light from the retina and through this, a sudden loss of vision can occur. This is a very serious condition particularly if the arteries are hardened or atherosclerosis exists. This is more common in the middle age and old age people. Retinal vascular occlusion sometimes also causes an eye stroke by causing temporary blurred vision or by causing permanent blindness of the eye. The probability of the occurrence of retinal vascular occlusion is more in patients having diabetes, blood pressure and other conditions.

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What is Retinal Vascular Occlusion?

Types of Retinal Vascular Occlusion

Retinal vascular occlusion is mainly divided into two types which depend on the blood vessels which are affected. These are:

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  • Retinal Artery Occlusion: This type of retinal artery occlusion happens in one retinal artery that carries oxygenated blood to the retina from the heart. This happens mostly when the blockage occurs in the smaller branches of the arteries. Retinal artery occlusion occurs when there is a blockage in the main artery of the retina.
  • Retinal Vein Occlusion: This is the blockage of one of the retinal vein. This type is again divided into further two types which are:
  1. Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO): In this condition, usually a blood clot is formed at the central retinal vein near the lamina cribosa. This is the blockage of the main retinal vein.
  2. Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO): This is the very common condition mostly occurring in the elderly. It is mainly caused by the occlusion of one of the branches of central retinal vein. This is the blockage of the smaller branch veins throughout the retina.

Blockages which occur in your main vein or artery are found to be more serious than the blockages which occur in the smaller branch veins or arteries.

How is Retinal Vascular Occlusion Caused?

Causes of retinal vascular occlusion are not yet clear; however, it might occur when the veins in the eyes become too narrow or by hardening of the arteries and also the formation of a blood clot. Some factors which affect the blood flow can also be a risk factor to cause the retinal vascular occlusion and are discussed below:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Blood clots that travel from other parts of the body to the eye
  • Heart problems like heart valve related issues or irregular rhythm
  • Diabetes
  • Increased blood pressure(Hypertension)
  • High cholesterol levels.
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Age of more than 60
  • Glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve that is usually caused by increased pressure.
  • Rare blood disorders
  • Inflammatory disorders like giant cell arteritis.

Macular edema, which is mainly a condition characterized by fluid buildup, thickening and swelling of the central part of retina in which fluid is leaked into the macula, or in the area of the retina that allows sharp imaging.

  • Intravenous drug dose.
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Vitreous hemorrhage

Can Retinal Vascular Occlusion be Prevented?

Yes, retinal vascular occlusion can be prevented. It is a sign of a general blood vessel disease and the best way to prevent it is by identifying the risk factors and treating them. It is important to change the lifestyle and diet plan to prevent retinal vascular occlusion mainly by protecting your blood vessels and keeping your heart healthy. Some of the steps include:

  • Exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Gaining of healthy body weight
  • Maintaining a healthy diet with low fat
  • Less smoking or completely quitting smoking
  • Maintaining diabetes by maintaining a healthy blood sugar level
  • Taking aspirin tablets or other blood thinners after visiting your doctors.

Regular checkups can prevent this disease by correcting any increased blood pressure which in turn will help to prevent retinal vascular occlusion. Keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels under check and get it evaluated every year for an early diagnosis and prevention of the condition. If you are planning for a family or taking birth control pills, visit your doctor for advice as this may also cause the retinal vascular occlusion. The condition which needs to be taken care of is hypertension (HTN), glaucoma, diabetes mellitus, cardio-vascular diseases, and a high body mass index as these are risk factors for retinal vascular occlusion.

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: August 17, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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