Retinal Vein Occlusions in Northwest Arkansas

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, globally, an estimated 16.4 million people are affected by retinal vein occlusions. The team at Retina Center of Arkansas believes the first step in treatment for patients suffering with retinal occlusions in Northwest Arkansas is education. If you are one of the 16.4 million Americans suffering from vision loss due to retinal vein occlusions, read more from board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. DellaCroce below to gain a better understanding of your alignment and its potential causes and treatments.

What are Retinal Occlusions?

Retinal vein occlusions occur when there is a blockage of blood flow through the retinal veins carrying blood out of the eye. This can cause slow blood movement through the eye and poor oxygen delivery to the retinal tissues. Depending on the severity of the blockage, it can lead to poor oxygenation (ischemia), which can result in permanent damage. Retinal vein occlusions cause a painless loss of vision. The vision loss is due to fluid and blood that accumulate in the eye, resulting in swelling of the tissues. If there is too much lack of blood flow, it can lead to abnormal new blood vessels forming (neovascularization) that can leak blood into the clear jelly-like fluid of the eye (vitreous hemorrhage). In some cases, new blood vessels can form in the more front part of the eye, causing a rise in pressure and form of glaucoma known as neovascular glaucoma.

There are two types of Retinal Vein Occlusions:

  1. Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO): BRVO is a blockage in one of the smaller branches of the retinal veins and may only affect a portion of the retina.
  2. Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO): CRVO is a blockage of the main vein that drains blood from the retina and can cause a more severe loss of vision.

Symptoms of Retinal Occlusions

Often, you may not even know you have a retinal vein occlusion. Those with blockage in smaller blood vessels usually show no symptoms at all. If you do begin showing symptoms, the ones you may notice are:

  • Blurry or missing vision in part or all of an eye
  • Dark spots or lines floating in your vision
  • Pain and pressure in the eye

Causes of Retinal Occlusions

An RVO occurs when a small blood clot blocks flow through a retinal vein, or the vein gets pinched by an overlapping artery. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other health problems that affect blood flow can be contributing factors. In an otherwise healthy person, it can be a sign of an undiagnosed clotting disorder that should be investigated to minimize the risk of blood clots in other parts of the body.

Retinal arterial occlusions occur due to blockage of the small arteries of the eye, often by an embolus (a small fragment of cholesterol or calcium that blocks blood flow) or by a thrombus (blood clot). Retinal arterial occlusions may be transient and last for only a few seconds or minutes if the blockage breaks up and blood flow is re-established, or it may be permanent.

Risk Factors for Retinal Occlusions

The risks for developing retinal occlusions are similar to the factors that may cause cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular diseases and other diseases of the heart or blood vessels are caused by atheroma and are associated with a higher risk of blood clots.

Risk factors for retinal occlusions include:

  • Atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in the arteries)
  • Carotid occlusive disease
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Faulty Heart valves
  • Tumors in the heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Giant-cell arteritis
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • IV drug use
  • Homocystinuria
  • Oral Contraceptives
  • Pregnancy
  • Blood platelet abnormalities

Most cases occur in people in their 60s, and it is more common in men. Only 1-2% of cases involve both eyes.

Diagnosis of Retinal Occlusions

Ophthalmologist Dr. John T. DellaCroce will perform a comprehensive retinal exam that will check your vision, the pressure within your eyes, and the physical appearance of your eyes. After we assess your eye function and the look of your pupil, we may also measure your blood pressure and suggest a blood test to check your blood clotting conditions.

Other procedures we may use:

  • An ophthalmoscope may be used to examine your retina
  • An optical coherence tomography (OCT) may be used to take a high definition image of your retina
    If you’re suffering from retinal occlusions or other eye-related issues, schedule an appointment with the experts at Retina Center of Arkansas.
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