Retinal Vein Occlusion

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

What is retinal vein occlusion?

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.

Who gets retinal vein occlusion and why?

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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Author:
Dr Mary Lowth
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Colin Tidy
Document ID:
13623 (v3)
Last Checked:
05 May 2017
Next Review:
29 June 2020
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