Retinal Artery & Vein Occlusion

Retinal Artery & Vein Occlusion

Retinal Vascular Disease describes conditions that can affect the blood vessels and circulation of the retina and result in significant tissue changes with secondary complications and vision loss.  The two most common retinal vascular disorders are Retinal Artery Occlusion and Retinal Vein Occlusion. A Retinal Artery Occlusion can occur in either the Central Retinal Artery or in a Branch Retinal Artery that becomes blocked by a clot or “embolus” in the bloodstream. A Retinal Artery Occlusion is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.  When an artery occlusion occurs, it decreases the oxygen supply to the area causing permanent vision loss. Most patients who suffer Retinal Artery Occlusions are between the ages of 50 and 80. They notice a sudden, painless loss of vision that can be a complete loss of vision if it is a Central Retinal Artery Occlusion, or can be a partial loss of their visual field if it is a Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion.


Sometimes the major loss of vision is preceded by one or more episodes of “Amaurosis Fugax” or transient loss of vision. Patients who have Retinal Artery Occlusions have other significant health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart arrhythmias or high cholesterol. In patients over the age of 60, Retinal Artery Occlusion may be due to an underlying inflammatory condition called Giant Cell Arteritis.

A Retinal Vein Occlusion can occur in the Central Retinal Vein or in a Branch Retinal Vein where a blockage causes elevated venous pressure which damages the vein, leading to hemorrhages, swelling and ischemia-a lack of oxygen-in the retina.


Retinal Vein Occlusion occurs equally in women and men and mostly after the age of 60, and especially on those patients with diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease. Typically, patients experience a sudden onset of blurred or a “missing area of vision” if a branch retinal vein is occluded or a severe loss of central vision if the central retinal vein has become occluded.