Retinal Vein Occlusion

Authored by Dr Mary Lowth, 05 May 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Colin Tidy, 05 May 2017

Retinal vein occlusion occurs when one of the tiny veins in the retina becomes blocked by a blood clot.

This is a serious condition, which can affect your vision, caused by a blood clot in a tiny vein in the retina (the seeing membrane in your eye). The retina is a thin, light-sensitive membrane that lines the back of your eye.

An occlusion is a medical term for blockage so retinal vein occlusion means the retinal vein is blocked. This stops blood draining away from the retina and blood 'backs up' behind the blockage. Fluid and blood will then leak from the blood vessels into the delicate tissue of the retina, forcing its layers apart and affecting its ability to respond to light.

Retinal vein occlusion is a fairly common cause of loss of vision in the UK. It is most common in people over the age of 60 years.

It happens because the vein is blocked. This blockage may occur either because of pressure on the outside of the vein (usually from a retinal artery) which squashes or kinks it, or because of sludging of fatty deposits or clotting of blood inside the vein, forming a plug.

Conditions which increase the risk of retinal vein occlusion include:

  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol/high lipid levels.
  • Raised pressure in the eye (glaucoma).
  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.
  • Conditions which 'thicken' the blood.

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