Why Do People Get Retinal Vein Occlusions?

Retinal vein occlusions (RVOs) are blockages in the small veins that carry blood away from the retina. They are usually caused by hardening of the arteries and a blood clot that blocks the retinal vein. When this happens, blood cannot drain from the retina, raising the risk for hemorrhages and leaking fluid.

There are two types of RVO: central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) is the blockage of the main retinal vein. Branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO) is the blockage of a smaller branch of veins. Without treatment, nerve cells in the eye can die, leading to central vision loss.

Let’s explore the reasons why people get retinal vein occlusions and how to protect yourself from damage to the retina.

How Do People Get RVO?

Retinal vein occlusion happens when a blood clot blocks the vein. Sometimes it happens because the veins of the eye are too narrow. Narrow veins are more common in individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health problems that affect blood flow.

The symptoms of RVO can be subtle or obvious. It typically happens in just one eye, and the symptoms can get worse within a few hours or days. Painless blurring or vision loss are the most noticeable signs, and some people see dark spots or squiggles in their field of vision (floaters). Be sure to contact your eye specialist if you experience these symptoms.

Risk Factors for Retinal Vein Occlusion

Most cases of RVO are caused by hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which is why this condition is more common in individuals with high blood pressure or diabetes. However, because high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels don’t always present symptoms, not everyone is aware that they have these problems.

Let’s dig deeper into the reasons why people get RVO.

  • This condition occurs from a buildup of plaque in the walls of the arteries. There are usually no symptoms until a plaque ruptures or the buildup is enough to block blood flow.
  • People with diabetes have a hard time controlling their blood sugar levels. Too much blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and increase high blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure. Having high blood pressure damages the blood vessels and causes blood clots to form.
  • Eye conditions. Some eye conditions like glaucoma, macular edema or vitreous hemorrhages can be caused by blocked arteries.

Treatment for Cases of RVO

Unfortunately, there is no way to unblock retinal veins. Your eye specialist can treat the health problems associated with the retinal vein occlusion, and this may bring back some of your vision. Treatment options include anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drugs, corticosteroid drugs, laser therapy and photocoagulation therapy.

It’s also recommended to maintain your underlying health condition, whether it be high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol. Your eye doctor will also want to see you regularly to monitor your disease and track any changes. Some people may also need to take aspirin or blood thinners to prevent blockages.

Retinal vein occlusions can be serious and cause permanent vision loss. For patient-centered care, contact the Brooklyn retina experts at Empire Retina Consultants today.