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Retinal Vein Occlusion

Central and Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion

Retinal vein occlusion occurs when a small vein that carries blood away from the retina becomes blocked. When a retinal vein is obstructed by an adjacent blood vessel, this can cause a hemorrhage in the retina that can lead to a sudden onset of blurred vision in all or part of an eye, or a severe loss of vision. This condition is most common in adults over the age of 60. Swelling and ischemia (lack of oxygen) of the retina as well as glaucoma are fairly common complications.

Many patients will regain vision without treatment. However, vision rarely returns to normal. Complications from retinal vein occlusion require treatment, including focal laser treatment if macular edema is present, injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs into the eye, or laser treatment to prevent new growth of abnormal blood vessels.

How Is Retinal Vein Occlusion Treated?

Laser Treatment.

Your surgeon may treat your eye with a laser in an attempt to prevent vision loss or restore vision. Laser treatment of retinal vein occlusion varies in effectiveness from patient to patient and would not be appropriate for everyone. This is a subject to discuss with your physician.

Photodynamic Therapy.

Photodynamic therapy uses light to remove new abnormal blood vessels while doing no harm to the surrounding healthy tissue. To begin, the doctor injects the patient in the arm with a drug called verteporfin. This drug travels through the body and into the abnormal blood vessels found inside the eye. Next, the doctor shines a light inside the eye for about 90 seconds that activates the verteporfin drug. This removes the new blood vessels and allows for a slower rate of vision loss. After treatment, patients must avoid direct sunlight or bright light for about a week.

Anti-VEGF Injections.

Abnormal blood vessels may grow inside the eye due to a certain growth factor that occurs. Injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) into the eye slow the growth of new abnormal blood vessels. Patients may need multiple injections during a month's time. Anti-VEGF injections may slow down retinal vein occlusion and sometimes improve sight.

Vitrectomy Surgery.

A vitrectomy is usually recommended for advanced retinal complications. This procedure removes the vitreous and replaces it with a clear gel-like alternative. One example for application would be for the removal of foreign blood caused by a diabetic vitreous hemorrhage.

Vitrectomy surgery may be appropriate for:

  • Retinal detachment
  • Endophthalmitis
  • Intraocular foreign body removal
  • Lens retrieval after a complication during cataract surgery
  • Epiretinal membrane
  • Macular hole
  • Diabetic vitreous hemorrhage
  • Proliferative vitreoretinopathy

Scleral Buckle.

This procedure uses a piece of plastic sponge to push the eye wall back toward the retina. This allows for the retina to heal. A scleral buckle may also be used to prevent fluids from leaking out of the eye that could cause a progressed retinal detachment.


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