Q:

What causes retinal vein occlusion?

A:

Quick Answer

Hardening of the arteries, also called atherosclerosis, is the most common cause of retinal vein occlusion. Retinal vein occlusion occurs when a blood clot blocks, or occludes, the veins that carry blood away from the retina. This causes painless vision loss which may be mild or significant.

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Full Answer

Unfortunately, the blockage cannot be opened once it has occurred. Treatment is aimed at preventing future blockages in one or both eyes. This includes controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol, managing diabetes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Some individuals may need to take aspirin or other blood thinners to help address abnormal blood clotting. Retinal vein occlusions can cause glaucoma and macular edema as complications. These conditions can be treated directly.

The prognosis varies, though individuals with existing eye conditions, such as glaucoma or macular edema, tend to have a poorer outlook. While vision often returns, even without treatment, it usually doesn't return to normal.

Risk factors for retinal vein occlusions include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood clotting disorders and smoking. These conditions narrow, or otherwise damage, blood vessels over time and compromise the cardiovascular system. Those who are older than 60, and those who have other eye conditions such as glaucoma or macular edema also have a greater risk.

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