What is Retinal Vein Occlusion?

As a niche CRO in the ophthalmology space, we run into a number of indications in our work. Our mission is to shape the future of clinical trials to help others see the world, and because of this, we want to not only help our patients regain their vision but also help educate others about various conditions that cause visual issues. This week, we tackle Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO), an indication that we hear a lot about in our industry, but one that you may not be aware of if you aren’t working with ophthalmology patients daily.

First, let’s start with the basics and where this indication lies, the retina. The retina is where the eye focuses the images that we see. Think of it like a wallpaper on the inside wall of the eye.

Generally speaking, occlusion is a blockage of an artery or vein.  Occlusion can happen anywhere, but in RVO this is occurring in a retinal vein. When there is a blockage, blood is unable to drain from the retina, leading to hemorrhaging and can cause a number of symptoms including:

  • Blurry or missing vision in part or all of an eye
  • Dark spots or lines floating in your vision
  • Pain and/or pressure in the eye (this is very rare)

The primary symptom is a blurring or loss of vision that is usually sudden in onset and generally in only one eye. If left untreated, the blurring or loss of vision usually gets worse fairly quickly. At times patients notice dark spots or “floaters” (tiny clumps of cells or material floating in the eye) in their vision.

In severe cases, pressure will build up in the eye and cause pain.

So what causes this blockage? There are several potential factors to consider:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol Levels
  • Diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Glaucoma
  • Blood disorders that affect clotting
  • People over the age of 60
  • Smoking

Unfortunately, there is no cure for RVO once diagnosed, thus the best course of action when treating it is prevention. Seeing an ophthalmologist regularly as well as taking control of your personal health can help prevent RVO before it starts. However, for those that already suffer from this indication, there are some courses of action available. In an attempt to keep vision stable, a patient can expect to have his or her leaking veins sealed, which helps prevent swelling that can affect your vision. This is done using a laser or getting regular injections in the eye.

Again, seeing your ophthalmologist is key in preventing RVO, or any other eye condition that may affect your quality of life. For more information on RVO, check out the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeWiki here: http://eyewiki.aao.org/Retinal_Vein_Occlusion.