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Retinal vein occlusion: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About retinal vein occlusion

Retinal vein occlusion is a common disorder affecting the blood vessel of the retina (a part of the eye, on which the image is formed) and is one of the most common causes of blindness. Loss of vision is generally sudden and painless.

Retinal vein occlusion is of two types depending upon its site of blockage. Blockage of the retinal vein at the optic nerve is known as central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) whereas blockage in a branch of retinal vein is referred to as branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO).

Retinal vein occlusion: Incidence, age and sex

It is a disease of the advanced years, mainly afflicting elderly individuals. It is usually observed after 65 years of age. Men are more affected as compared with women in case of CRVO, whereas BRVO has no gender bias.

Signs and symptoms of retinal vein occlusion: Diagnosis

Retinal vein occlusion mainly affects one eye (unilateral); however some cases of bilateral involvement have also been documented. Loss of vision is usually sudden, but there may be intermittent episodes of blurred vision. It is characteristically painless. Patients with small occlusions of a branch retinal vein may often remain asymptomatic unless a procedure called fundoscopy reveals the lesion.

Detailed eye examination along with a diagnostic procedure (fundoscopy) needs to be done to establish the diagnosis. Fundoscopy may reveal swelling of the retina, retinal haemorrhages, or increased tortuousness of the retinal veins.

Causes and prevention of retinal vein occlusion

The cause of retinal vein occlusion may be either general (systemic) or local (pertaining to the eye). Local causes include glaucoma or trauma to the eye. It may also be associated with conditions like high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, diabetes, abnormal lipid profile, tuberculosis or syphilis. Certain blood disorders like leukaemia, lymphoma, Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, polycythemia vera, or sickle cell disease may also affect the blood vessels of eye and exhibit retinal vein occlusion. Moreover, chances of retinal vein occlusion increase with increasing age.

Retinal vein occlusion: Complications

The most disastrous complication of retinal vein occlusion includes permanent blindness. Moreover, formation of new blood vessels in the eye may result in a serious eye condition called glaucoma.

Retinal vein occlusion: Treatment

Unfortunately, this is an incurable condition and most treatment modes for retinal vein occlusion are ineffective. Drugs like corticosteroids, triamcinolone, monoclonal antibodies (bevacizumab) have also been tried.

It is important to undergo an eye procedure called ‘pan-retinal photocoagulation’ to decrease haemorrhages in the vitreous chamber and prevent ‘neo-vascular glaucoma’.