Make an Appointment (978)-854-5090

Retinal Vein Occlusions (RVO)- Know the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

By admin | Sep 21, 2016

What are Retinal Vein Occlusions (RVO)?

Veins carry blood back to the heart from all over the body, and the eyes are no exception. The retina is comprised of delicate, neural tissue which is fed by a series of retinal veins and arteries. When a retinal vein becomes blocked, or occluded, blood is prevented from returning to the heart. Very much like a blocked garden hose, this causes a buildup in pressure that results in leakage of fluid and bleeding from the affected retinal blood vessels.  The areas of the retina that were depending on these blood vessels for oxygen and nutrients are now deprived.  This leads to tissue damage, similar to what happens in a stroke.

There are two different types of retinal vein occlusions (RVO)- Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO) and Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO).  A CRVO is the blockage of the main retinal vein. A BRVO is the blockage of one of the smaller branch veins. Both require immediate attention from a retina specialist.

Causes of Retinal Vein Occlusions

There are a number of conditions which can cause RVO. Most commonly, hardening of the arteries as seen in arteriosclerosis causes RVO. However, other systemic diseases such as diabetes, hyperviscosity syndromes, high cholesterol, glaucoma, systemic inflammatory and collagen vascular diseases can all affect the integrity of arteries and veins feeding the retina, and are risk factors for RVO. In any of these cases, an RVO will occur due to narrowing of the veins or a blood clot which will occlude the vein lumen.  Risk for complications with any of these diseases and subsequent effects on the retina increases with age.

Retinal Vein Occlusion Symptoms

Symptoms of an RVO will range from patient to patient.   Some patients might notice slight changes to their vision while others may experience more significant symptoms. Typically, symptoms include blurring or loss of vision which worsens over the course of hours or days. Occasionally, complete and total loss of vision can occur.  These symptoms are usually painless.

Retinal Vein Occlusions
Normal Vision
Retinal Vein Occlusion
Vision of Patient with RVO

What if you are diagnosed with RVO?

If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms, see your ophthalmologist or retina specialist right away. A retina specialist will perform a detailed clinical exam and do a series of diagnostic tests in order to confirm whether or not you have a RVO. Some of these tests might include: optical coherence tomography (OCT) or fluorescein angiography (FA).

Treatment will vary from patient to patient depending on a variety of factors such as case severity and whether there is any other existing pathology. Often, your retina specialist will monitor your condition closely and determine what action, if any, needs to be taken. Your retina specialist may decide to treat with medication injections, or laser treatment in order to seal off the leaking blood vessel and prevent subsequent complications.  Your retina specialist will also recommend you monitor and properly manage any systemic diseases which could affect your eye health, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Outcomes will vary on a case by case basis and the details of your particular situation should be discussed at length with your retina specialist. At Retina Consultants of Boston, the best possible outcomes for your vision is the priority of our physicians; we put your eye health and your eyesight first.

In the interest of maintaining further transparency and providing a wide breadth of information to our patients and providers, this blog will serve as an educational and informative resource on interesting happenings within Retina Consultants of Boston and in the greater field of Ophthalmology.

Here at Retina Consultants of Boston, Dr. John J. Weiter and Dr. Namrata Nandakumar are on the forefront of diagnostic techniques, treatment and micro-surgical techniques for macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachments, macular holes, and a number of other issues affecting the vitreous and retina. Check back here frequently for news and updates on our practice and all things retina!