Retinal Vessel Occlusion

Also Known As:

Eye Stroke, Retinal Vessel Thrombosis

What is Retinal Vessel Occlusion?

Retinal Vessel Occlusion is a condition that occurs when an embolus becomes lodged in a retinal blood vessel, 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. Blood circulation to most of the retina’s surface is primarily through one artery and one vein. 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.

The two types of Retinal Vessel Occlusion are:
•   Retinal Vein Occlusion: When a blockage occurs in a retinal vein
•   Retinal Artery Occlusion: When a blockage occurs in a retinal artery


Retinal Vessel 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 Vessel 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


The exact symptoms of a Retinal Vessel Occlusion will depend on the particular blood vessel involved. 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 Vessel 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 Vessel Occlusion, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention, because a delay in treatment may result in permanent loss of vision.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Retinal Vessel 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

In a recent German study of the underlying risk factors in patients with retinal vessel occlusion, researchers found that previously undiagnosed cardiovascular (CV) risk factors were present in 78 percent of patients, and 67 percent had CV risk factors in their medical history.

The outlook for people with this condition depends on its severity. Many people will recover and regain most of their vision, however for some, permanent damage may remain.

Also see: Retinal Vein Occlusion, Retinal Artery Occlusion

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Published Date:

15th March 2019


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