Our retina specialists are board certified in ophthalmology, have completed a retina disease fellowship and have performed thousands of retina procedures. Our doctors and their staff share a common mission to provide the most up-to-date medical care in an environment that is compassionate and patient-centered.
Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO)
Arteries from the optic nerve bring blood to the retina and veins drain blood out of the retina. When a blockage develops in a vein, it is like a dam being placed in a river. The waters upstream overflow the banks and spill into the surrounding area. In the eye, blood and fluid leak out of the blood vessels into the retina causing poor vision in that area. Blood flow is permanently altered and can result in substantial vision loss.
Causes and Symptoms of a Vein Occlusion
The most common cause of a retinal vein occlusion is long-standing hypertension. Age and other vascular diseases such as diabetes are risk factors as well. Unfortunately, bad luck also plays a role as the anatomical path of the vein predisposes some people to developing a blockage.
Depending on the severity and which veins are affected, people often have decreased central vision and loss of some or all peripheral vision. The eye often works to "re-route" blood around the blockage but this often takes months or years.
There is no cure for a vein occlusion and no way to completely reverse the damage that has occurred. The best indicator of long term success with treatment is the initial visual acuity at presentation. We can often improve the vision with injections and laser but we are rarely able to bring the vision back to where it was.
New drug therapies have been developed which are used to improve the leakage and bleeding that can develop in vein occlusions. Avastin and the FDA approved drug Lucentis have proven to be successful in improving vision after a vein occlusion has occurred. Recently, the FDA has approved a new medication called Eylea. It may be as effective as Avastin and Lucentis and offers another option for future treatment. These medications are injected with a tiny needle into the eye in an almost painless fashion.
If leakage and swelling occur in the central retina, a light laser is occasionally used to treat the leaking blood vessels. For abnormal blood vessel growth, larger laser treatments are delivered to the peripheral retina. These treatments reduce abnormal blood vessel growth and help decrease fluid leakage or bleeding in the eye. While laser is sometimes necessary for long-term stability of vein occlusions, injections have proven be effective initially.