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Retinal Artery Occlusion

Connecticut Retina Consultants

Ophthalmologists & Retina Specialists located in New Haven, CT & Fairfield County, CT

Retinal artery occlusion is a condition that develops when a blood clot blocks an artery that’s taking fresh blood to your eye. Without oxygen and nutrients from the blood, your retina could die, and you might lose your sight. Thankfully the highly experienced ophthalmologists at Connecticut Retina Consultants have extensive expertise in helping patients who have retinal artery occlusion at their offices in New Haven, Hamden, Madison, Trumbull, and Fairfield, Connecticut. Call Connecticut Retina Consultants today to find out more or arrange a consultation.

Retinal Artery Occlusion Q & A

What is a retinal artery occlusion?

A retinal artery occlusion is a condition where blood flow to the retina gets blocked, typically by a blood clot. Without a constant flow of nutrients and oxygen from your blood, the sensitive nerve tissue starts to die, leading to permanent sight loss.

There are two types of arterial occlusions, central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO) and branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO). CRAO is a blockage in the main artery going into the center of your retina. BRAO is a blockage of one of the smaller arteries coming off the main artery.

There aren’t any proven treatments for these conditions, but your ophthalmologist at Connecticut Retina Consultants can treat any underlying problems.

What causes a retinal artery occlusion?

The reasons why a blood clot forms in the artery feeding the retina aren’t clear. However, there are known risk factors and underlying conditions that make the development of blood clots and retinal artery occlusion more likely. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Intravenous (IV) drug use
  • Being over 60
  • Glaucoma
  • Smoking
  • Rare blood disorders
  • Macular edema
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Atherosclerosis (hardened arteries)
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Heart valve problems

Blood clots traveling from other parts of your body could potentially lodge in the artery in your eye, or there could be a blockage or narrowing of the carotid arteries in your neck.

The main symptom of retinal artery occlusion is a change in your vision that happens suddenly. Your vision might become blurry, or you might experience a partial or even complete loss of sight.

Symptoms typically only affect one eye and aren’t painful.

How is retinal artery occlusion treated?

There are several potential treatments for retinal artery occlusion. Blood thinners can help break up the clot and disperse it, and steroid injections into your eye can reduce the swelling.

Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs such as Avastin® (bevacizumab), Lucentis® (ranibizumab), and Eylea® (aflibercept) can be a useful treatment for retinal artery occlusion. Some patients might benefit from laser therapy to break down the blood clot. 

Will I regain my sight after having a retinal artery occlusion?

You could regain your sight after having a retinal artery occlusion, and most people find their vision improves even if it doesn’t go back to what it was before.

Some people don’t get their sight back, and this is more likely to be the case if you have other conditions like glaucoma in addition to retinal artery occlusion.

Because the condition typically only affects one eye, your brain can adjust to the change in your vision over time. You might find that once you’ve adapted to the loss of sight in the affected eye, your other eye and your brain compensate, so it’s not as much of a problem.

To find out more about conditions like retinal artery occlusion or to make an appointment for an eye exam, call Connecticut Retina Consultants today.