Understanding Retinal Vascular Occlusion


The retina is located at the back of the eye and is responsible for receiving light from the front of your eye and converting this light into neural signals, which are processed by your brain into the images you see. In order to function efficiently, your retina requires healthy blood flow, as blood delivers vital nutrients and oxygen. When one or more blood vessels in your retina become blocked, a build-up of blood can inhibit the functioning of the retina and cause loss of vision. This condition is called retinal vascular occlusion, and if it's left untreated, there can be long-term damage to your eye health. Here's what you need to know about retinal vascular occlusion:

Causes And Symptoms

It's not fully understood why some people develop retinal vascular occlusion, but anything that can have a negative effect on blood flow is thought to increase your risk of developing this condition. So, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, inflammatory disorders and diabetes can contribute to blood vessel blockages in the retina.

The first noticeable symptom of retinal vascular occlusion is visual disturbances, such as blurred vision, light sensitivity and night blindness. Partial or complete loss of vision is common, but this condition doesn't tend to cause any eye pain. In rare cases, the retina can detach from the tissue at the back of your eye, which can cause permanent blindness. 

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Your optometrist can spot signs of retinal vascular occlusion during an eye test. An ophthalmoscope, which is a device that allows your optometrist to see magnified images of the retina, can be used to check for swelling and abnormal blood vessel growth. Additionally, an instrument called a tonometer, which measures eye pressure levels, can be used, as poor blood flow can cause the pressure at the back of your eye to increase.

If your optometrist suspects you have retinal vascular occlusion, they will refer you to an ophthalmologist who will carry out a fluorescein angiogram. This is a diagnostic procedure, which involves the use of a dye to highlight blocked blood vessels. Dye is injected into a vein in your arm, and once it reaches your eye, any blood vessels it cannot pass through will be highlighted.

Treatment for retinal vascular occlusion will depend on the severity of the condition and your overall health. If lifestyle factors could be affecting your vascular health, you may be referred to other specialists, such as a smoking cessation nurse or dietician, to get some support as you modify your lifestyle. Blood thinners may be prescribed to prevent further build-up of blood around the retina, and corticosteroids injections can be used to decrease retinal swelling. Additionally, laser therapy can be used to unblock affected blood vessels, which can allow for immediate improvement in your sight.

If you're experiencing symptoms associated with retinal vascular occlusion, or if you're overdue an eye test, schedule an appointment with your optometrist as soon as possible. 


19 July 2017

Successful, Fear-Free Eye Exams for Kids

Eye exams aren't always easy for kids. Some kids have social anxiety or fear of doctors. Others may have issues such as extreme dyslexia holding them back from even being able to read the letters on the chart, and you my be worried about what to tell the optometrist. If you are worried bout having a successful eye exam, you are not alone. I have felt the same way in the past. However, after four kids – three of whom own glasses – I have learned how to negotiate the world of optometry with kids. If you have kids, check out these tips. They will get you and your kid through your next appointment.