Retinal Vein Occlusion

In people who have diabetes and high blood pressure there is an increased risk of developing blockages of the veins in the retina. If a small vein is blocked, this is called a branch retinal vein occlusion. If the large retinal vein is blocked, this is called a central retinal vein occlusion.

When the vein develops a blockage, the blood backs up in the blood vessel and leaks out through the blood vessel walls. Since blood is made of both fluid and red blood cells, sometimes the fluid can collect at the central vision causing decreased vision. Blood can also collect within the retina.  Vision loss can be mild or very severe.

Structure of the eye image

Treatment of retinal vein occlusions

The most important things that you can do to reduce the risk of developing retinal vein occlusions is to control the glucose level and blood pressure level as well as possible with the assistance of your primary care physician. If a retinal vein occlusion develops and fluid collects at the central retina (macular edema), the current treatment is to inject anti-VEGF medications into the eye and (Avastin®, Lucentis® and Eylea®). This helps to stabilize blood vessels and reduce leakage of the blood vessels. After several injections, the fluid often improves. The amount of visual improvement, however, depends on the degree to which the retina had been damaged during the initial vein occlusion. Sometimes, injections are required for several years depending on the health and stability of the damaged blood vessels.

Occasionally, abnormal blood vessels develop and this may need to be treated with laser treatment.  Less commonly, new blood vessels can grow in the front of the eye and cause very severe glaucoma. As such, it is important that the eyes be checked regularly by a retina specialist to be sure that the retina has stabilized and does not require additional treatment.