Should You Be Using Steriods for your Retinal Vein Occlusion?

Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is one of the most common retina disorders. If left untreated, it can result in vision impairment or blindness. The risk for RVO goes up substantially with age. It’s estimated that 16 million around the globe are affected in one or both eyes. Other risk factors include ocular hypertension, high ocular pressure, glaucoma, or changes in the arteries.

If RVO is not treated, it can result in permanent vision loss. To prevent this from happening, the condition must be monitored and treated. Let’s learn more about the treatment options for RVO and if you could benefit from taking steroids.

Early Stages of Retinal Vein Occlusion

In the beginning stages of RVO, changes in blood flow are present. As a result, more inflammatory mediators are released. These mediators have a number of effects, including vascular permeability and tissue remodeling. To diagnose the condition, an eye doctor will perform a number of tests such as a standard eye exam, pressure checks, and an evaluation of the surface and vessels of the eye.

Management of RVO

There is no single way to treat RVO. The goal of treatment is to control the inflammatory response and the damage it may cause. As the condition progresses, therapies may change. Below are three options that your ophthalmologist may consider.

-Watchful waiting. If your condition is not severe, the doctor may recommend the watchful waiting approach. This involves closely monitoring your condition but not giving treatment until your symptoms change or worsen. However, with new tests and technologies, the watchful waiting method is less reliable.

-Pharmacologic therapies. The two main types of pharmacologic therapies are anti-VEGFs and steroids. Steroids are beneficial because they control inflammation, stabilize the blood-retinal barrier and decrease vascular permeability. However, the first line of defense is anti-VEGF drugs, which block the process that causes bleeding and swelling.  

-Laser photocoagulation. This procedure may be suggested if you have failed pharmacologic therapy. It involves shrinking abnormal blood vessels in the eyes. It’s commonly used for treating diabetic retinopathy and can prevent additional vision loss.

More on Anti-VEGFs and Steroids

Many people can treat their RVO with medication. Surgeons are still debating which option is best: anti-VEGFs or steroids; it’s even possible for some patients to do best with both.

Anti-VEGF agents are the more popular treatment method. There are different types of agents, and some may work better than others depending on the patient. For those who don’t respond to anti-VEGF compounds, steroids may be used. Steroids provide immediate relief and can be combined with anti-VEGFs to decrease edema.

If you have been diagnosed with RVO, work with your eye doctor to find the best solution. There are different types of anti-VEGF agents, so if one isn’t working, try another. It’s best to use steroids only as needed to control swelling and inflammation.