Retinal Vein Occlusions

Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a common vascular disorder of the retina and one of the common causes of vision loss worldwide. RVO is classified according to where the occlusion is located. Occlusion of the central retinal vein at the level of the optic nerve is referred to as central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO). An occlusion at the primary superior branch or primary inferior branch involving approximately half of the retina is referred to as hemiretinal vein occlusion (HRVO). Obstruction at any more distal branch of the retinal vein is referred to as branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO).

RVO is essentially a blockage of a portion of the venous circulation that drains the retina. With blockage, pressure builds up in the capillaries, leading to hemorrhage and leakage of fluid and blood. This can lead to macular edema with leakage near the macula. Neovascularization, new abnormal blood vessel growth, then occurs, which can result in neovascular glaucoma, vitreous hemorrhage, and, in late or severe cases, retinal detachment.

Retinal vein occlusions usually occur because your arteries harden and cause a clot, much like a stroke. Blockages are more common in people with narrowed or damaged blood vessels or those with chronic conditions that cause them. Such diseases include:

  • Atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries
  • Glaucoma, which is optic nerve damage that’s usually caused by increased pressure
  • Macular Edema, which is fluid leakage into the macula, or the area of the retina that allows for sharp focus
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • People Who Smoke

This disease is diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam, including vision and pressure checks, and examining the surfaces and vessels of your eye. Other tests to diagnose retinal vein occlusion include:

  • Optical coherence tomography, in which a high-definition image is taken of your retina
  • Ophthalmoscopy, in which your retina is examined with an ophthalmoscope
  • Fluorescein Angiography, in which a dye is injected into your arm that then travels to your retinal veins to be photographed for blockages
  • Your doctor may also perform blood tests for diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood clotting disorders.


Blockages in your retinal veins can’t be removed. Treatment focuses on issues arising from the occlusion, such as:

  • Laser Therapy to reduce Edema, or swelling caused by fluid leakage
  • Drug injections of Anti VEGF’s or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • Vitrectomy surgery, which is the removal of all or part of the jelly-like tissue in your eye called the “vitreous humor” which is filled with blood along with retinal lasers.