Bright Sight

Oliver Backhouse, Consultant Eye Surgeon

Retinal Vein Occlusion

At the back of the eye there are branching arteries and veins which keep the retina (the light sensitive part of the eye) healthy. Occasionally the vein ‘blocks off’ causing visual disturbance. The most common causes for this to happen are diabetes, hypertension and being over 60 years of age. Blood clotting factors are more important in younger people. Where an artery crosses a vein there is a common coating. As one gets older, the artery thickens (faster in people with hypertension) and this therefore squashes the vein which sometimes produces a 'vein occlusion'.

Retinal vein occlusion can result in reduced vision from bleeding, fluid collecting at the macula (the part of the retina which sees fine detail) as well as exudate (protein leakage) and lack of blood supply which are all secondary to the damaged vein.

To date there has been no truly effective treatment to help restore some vision other than time. If the vein occlusion is severe then laser is offered to help reduce the complications of new blood vessel formation. While these new vessels seem sensible, they are fragile and can lead to a painful and blind eye. Laser reduces this risk significantly. Stopping smoking and taking 75mg of Aspirin along with Multivitamins may also help.

Research has indicated the benefit of giving a steroid injection (Ozurdex: ) to patients with retinal vein occlusion. It appears that the sooner this treatment is given the better the final results of gained vision. As with all injections in the eye there is a risk of introducing infection (approx 1%) and causing a bleed or retinal detachment. This method of injection is well established in Ophthalmology. Alternatively some of the injection medications used to treat wet Macula Degeneration can also be used.