What is a Retinal Vein and Artery Occlusion?

An artery occlusion is a blockage of blood to the retina and can be caused by high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, or carotid artery disease.  A retinal vein occlusion is a blockage of blood that leads blood away from the retina.  Vein occlusions can be caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, age, and  blood clotting disorders. The severity of the damage to retinal tissues is dependent on the severity of the occlusion. Occlusions of the vessels at the point of entry to or exit from the eye are called central retinal vein occlusion or central retinal artery occlusion.

A branch retinal vein occlusion or branch retinal artery occlusion is a blockage within the eye that only affects a portion of the eye. The amount of damage is also determined by the severity of the blockage and the damage can range from mild visual disturbance to blindness. During an ocular exam, an evaluation of the condition will be made by the use of imaging techniques such as optic coherence tomography (OCT) and fluorescein angiogram (FA).

What are the treatments?

In order to treat vein occlusion, the resulting effects that cause the vein occlusion must be treated. A vein occlusion may cause leakage from vessels that have increased pressure resulting from the backup of blood flow and the leakage may lead to macular edema. The treatment for the macular edema may involve laser treatment to the area of swelling or injection of intraocular medication.

There are no treatments available for artery occlusions.  Regular evaluation of the eye is necessary to ensure that the lack of blood flow to the eye does not lead to a condition called proliferative retinopathy.  Proliferative retinopathy creates the growth of new vessels in the eye that can lead to bleeding in the eye or to a painful increase in the pressure of the eye. Laser treatment is used to cause regression of the new blood vessel formation.