A retinal vessel occlusion is a blockage in a blood vessel that leads toward or from the eye. Blockages can be partial or full and be in a part of the eye that blocks the four main pathways (branches) to the eye, or in the central pathway and block all four.
The optic nerve comes into the back of the eyeball, and goes in and supplies the retina with oxygenated blood. The pathway that brings oxygenated blood to the eye is an artery, and the one that takes it away is a vein. The central artery splits into four main branches when it reaches the eye.
Patients can present with a central occlusion (which blocks all four branches) or a single-branch occlusion (wherein one branch is blocked).
Usually, the blockage creates a loss of circulation, or blood flow, to the eye. The everyday term for this occurrence is a "stroke", and patients lose part of their vision because of it.
Is it treatable?
Vein occlusions are generally treatable. In this case, the problem is really that blood cannot exit the eye adequately, so the back of the eye swells. In this case, the drying intraocular injections are an effective treatment.
Arterial blockages are tricker, because blood flow doesn’t always return even after the blockage is clear. Patients only do well when the arterial blockage isn’t complete and vision loss isn’t so profound. Arterial blockages are very difficult to treat, but a retinologist like Dr. Bianco is the specialist you want to take care of it for you. Time is also of the essence, so get to a doctor quickly.
How are retinal vessel occlusions diagnosed?
Occlusions are diagnosed during an angiogram of the retina. Dr. Bianco will inject a small amount of dye and look at the retina using an ultrasound.