What Is Retinal Vein Occlusion?
If you are over the age of 55, you may have had some concern about your health, and most commonly in North America, you may have been concerned about a stroke or heart disease. Perhaps you have decided to take better care of your health and are now eating better and exercising more.
However, while we are widely aware of the dangers of a heart stroke, we are less aware that a stroke can happen in the eye.
Retinal vein occlusion is a stroke that takes place in the eye.
What Causes Retinal Vein Occlusion?
Retinal vein occlusion is caused when there are occlusions (blockages) in the arteries or veins in the retina that stop the blood flow, which consequently also stops the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the optic nerve. When an eye stroke happens vision is impaired, but the severity of vision loss depends on where the blockage is and how much blood flow has been lost.
The health factors that lead to a stroke in the heart are also indicators that you may be at risk of an eye stroke. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, artery disease, or heart problems may all be the underlying cause of the blockage.
There are two types of retinal vein occlusion: central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) which causes sudden vision loss, and branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO) which causes the loss of peripheral vision.
What are the Symptoms of Retinal Vein Occlusion?
Unfortunately, a stroke in the eye can happen suddenly and with no previous symptoms that may have indicated a more serious problem. However, if you have a history of diabetes, hardened arteries, high blood pressure, or have any of the risk factors that could lead to heart disease or a stroke such as smoking and being overweight, there are a few symptoms you should look out for.
- Impaired or loss of vision
- Floating lines or specs that don’t go away
- Frequent pain or pressure in the eye
If you experience any of these symptoms and have a medical condition that puts you at risk of a stroke, you should make an appointment to see your Kelowna eye doctor immediately.
How Is Retinal Vein Occlusion Diagnosed?
Your optometrist will perform several tests to check your eyes for blockages.
- Drops will be used to open the pupils, then an ophthalmoscope will be used to check the retina for abnormalities such as blockages or bleeding.
- A fluorescein angiography test may be performed. This entails injected dye into your bloodstream, which flows through to the retina. A special camera will take a picture of the eye and the ink will reveal whether there are fluid leaks in the blood vessels, indicating damage.
- A third test called a coherence tomography may be recommended. This test scans your eyes with rays of light to take a detailed image of the retina that can reveal blockages and damage.
What is the Treatment for Retinal Vein Occlusion?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for an eye stroke once it happens, so prevention is the best approach. However, there are several treatments that can help protect and improve your vision and treat any complications that may arise.
An injection with the drug, anti-vascular endothelial growth factor, or a steroid injection can help ease swelling that reduces blood flow.
Focal laser therapy burns and seals blood cells near the macula to stop them from leaking.
Laser surgery can be used to burn the retina and stop vessels from growing and leaking.
As with all medical issues, taking proactive measures for your health is the best course of action and this includes taking care of your health for your eyesight.
Regular Kelowna eye exams and discussing your concerns with your eye doctor will give you the information you need to address any health issues before they become serious.