Which Options Work Best for Treating RVO?

Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a type of blockage in the veins. Usually, RVO is caused by the hardening of the arteries. Risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, and other eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular edema, or a vitreous hemorrhage.

Until about five years ago, ophthalmologists had few options for treating patients with RVO. In recent years, anti-VEGF drugs have been developed, providing eye specialists with more choices for helping their patients. Let’s learn more about these options and why they are beneficial.

Anti-VEGF Drugs

Most eye doctors use anti-VEGF drugs (ranibizumab, bevacizumab) as their first line of defense against RVO. These drugs were originally developed as anticancer drugs, but it was discovered later on that they had amazing properties for the eye. Specifically, anti-VEGF agents can treat diabetic macular edema, macular degeneration, and branch retinal vein occlusion. Anti-VEGF agents are effective because they block the process that causes bleeding and swelling and makes the edema disappear.


Steroids are another powerful treatment option for RVO, and can be used in combination with anti-VEGF drugs. Steroids have similar effects as the anti-cancer drugs, though not as strong. What makes steroids an essential treatment method is that they address the root cause of the occlusion. Steroids are also effective at treating inflammation and stabilizing retinal vessels.

Anti-VEGF and Steroids

Ophthalmologists are more apt to using anti-VEGF drugs over steroids because of their effectiveness, though it’s not uncommon to combine both the injections and the steroids. There are also different types of anti-VEGF agents, so if one doesn’t work, the doctor may prescribe another. If one of the drugs is partially effective, combining it with steroids or using steroids alone may be better.

Focal Laser Treatment

In the case of branch retinal vein occlusion, focal laser treatment can relieve symptoms. However, its role in central retinal vein occlusion has more uncertainty. Also, surgery isn’t always effective. This is why laser treatments are only reserved for patients who don’t respond to long-term anti-VEGF and steroidal therapies. And, if focal laser surgery doesn’t work, vitrectomy surgery may be an option.

If you have been diagnosed with RVO, rest assured that you have effective, non-invasive options to consider. Call Empire Retina to learn more about our personalized approach to treating RVO.