Retinal artery occlusion is a blockage in one of the small arteries that carry blood to the retina. The retina is a layer of tissue in the back of the eye that is able to sense light.
Retinal arteries may become blocked by a blood clot or fat deposits that get stuck in the arteries. These blockages are more likely if there is hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) in the eye.
Clots may travel from other parts of the body and block an artery in the retina. The most common sources of clots are the carotid artery in the neck and the heart.
Most clots occur in people with conditions such as:
If a branch of the retinal artery is blocked, part of the retina will not receive enough blood and oxygen. If this happens, you may lose part of your vision.
Sudden blurring or loss of vision may occur in:
The retinal artery occlusion may last for only a few seconds or minutes, or it may be permanent.
If the blood clot moves to another part of the brain, symptoms of a stroke may develop.
Tests to evaluate the retina may include:
General tests should include:
Tests to identify the source of a clot from another part of the body:
There is no proven treatment for vision loss that involves the whole eye, unless it is caused by another illness that can be treated.
Several treatments may be tried. These treatments must be given within 2 - 4 hours after symptoms begin to be helpful. However, the benefit of these treatments has never been proven, and they are rarely used.
The health care provider should look for the cause of the blockage. Blockages may be signs of a life-threatening medical problem.
People with blockages of the retinal artery may not get their vision back.
Call your health care provider if you have sudden blurring or vision loss.
Measures used to prevent other blood vessel (vascular) diseases, such as coronary artery disease, may decrease the risk of retinal artery occlusion. These include:
Sometimes blood thinners may be used to prevent the artery from becoming blocked again. Aspirin or other anti-clotting drugs are used if the problem is in the carotid arteries. Warfarin or other more potent blood thinners are used if the problem is in the heart.
Central retinal artery occlusion; Branch retinal artery occlusion; CRAO; BRAO