Retinal Artery Occlusion

Also Known As:

RAO, Retinal Artery Thrombosis, Eye Stroke

What is Retinal Artery Occlusion?

Retinal Artery Occlusion is a condition that occurs when an embolus becomes lodged in a retinal artery, causing the blood flow in the retina to be restricted or completely stopped (occluded).

The retina is the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye that is responsible for vision. The retinal artery carries oxygenated blood to the retina. When this artery is blocked, the cells in and around the retina begin to suffocate from lack of oxygen.

If a main vessel becomes blocked, the eye typically loses vision, often suddenly. If a blockage occurs in a smaller branch vessel, there may be partial vision loss or no symptoms.


Retinal Artery Occlusion is most commonly caused by an embolus, typically a blood clot, originating from the heart or neck. Blockages are more common in people with narrowed or damaged blood vessels.

Factors that can increase the risk of developing a Retinal Artery Occlusion include:
•   Atherosclerosis
•   Glaucoma
•   Macular Edema
•   Diabetes
•   Lymphoma
•   Leukemia
•   Multiple Myeloma
•   Trauma to the eye
•   High blood pressure
•   High cholesterol
•   Carotid Artery Stenosis
•   Blood-clotting disorders
•   Old age
•   Smoking
•   Being overweight or obese
•   Intravenous (IV) drug abuse
•   Cardiovascular diseases


Depending on the extent of retinal damage, some people have only minimal blurring of vision, while others have more substantial vision loss.

The symptoms of Retinal Artery Occlusion may include:
•   Sudden, painless, substantial loss of vision in one eye
•   Episodes of a condition called Amaurosis Fugax
•   Blurring of vision
•   Dark spots or lines floating in your vision
•   Pain and pressure in the eye

If a person notices any symptoms of a Retinal Artery Occlusion, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention, because a delay in treatment may result in permanent loss of vision.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Retinal Artery Occlusion is diagnosed by a Doctor using a physical examination, blood tests and scans. The Doctor may order the following tests:
•   Optical Coherence Tomography
•   Ophthalmoscopy
•   Fluorescein Angiography

The exact treatment used will be determined by the underlying condition and type of embolus, as well as any associated complications.

Treatments may include:
•   Anterior Chamber Paracentesis
•   Corticosteroid Medications
•   Vitrectomy
•   Ocular massage
•   Vasodilator Medications
•   Laser therapy to reduce edema
•   Thrombolytic Medications
•   Breathing carbogen
•   Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Medications (Anti-VEGF)

Additional Information

There are two types of retinal arteries. There’s one central artery and many smaller branch arteries. Likewise, there are two types of retinal artery occlusion; Central Retinal Artery Occlusion and Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion.

Also see: Retinal Vessel Occlusion, Retinal Artery Occlusion

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Published Date:

16th March 2019


Mediv8 Admin