Retinal Artery Occlusion
Retinal artery occlusions (RAOs) occur when small blood vessels in the retina suddenly close off for a period of time. This leads to severe damage in the affected area of the retina often causing sudden vision loss that is usually painless. RAOs can affect the entire retina leading to loss of both central and side vision. RAOs can also affect only a portion of the retina causing loss of a section of the central or side vision.
Sometimes abnormal blood vessels can start growing in the eye after an RAO. This complication is termed neovascularization. It can lead to bleeding in the eye or even high eye pressure (termed neovascular glaucoma) that can lead to even more severe vision loss or pain. If this condition is diagnosed in the early stages treatments with laser or eye injections can often limit further damage to the eye. If you have developed an RAO, your eye should be evaluated regularly, especially for the first year in order to detect and treat neovascularization.
Patients who develop RAOs are more likely to have other conditions in the rest of their body such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. They may also have conditions in their carotid artery (the artery that brings blood to the head) or heart that could lead to another RAO or even a stroke. Patients with RAOs should be see their primary care provider to check their general health and assess for these possible conditions, if this has not been done recently.