Retinal Conditions

Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO)

Branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO) is a blockage of the smaller veins that carry blood away from the retina. Branch retinal vein occlusion is most frequently caused by a hardening of the retinal arteries, which compresses the retinal vein and causes swelling of the macula and growth of abnormal blood vessels that can leak and bleed.

This vascular disorder causes sudden, painless vision loss or blindness.

There two variations of retinal vein occlusion, “branch” and “central”. This page covers branch retinal vein occlusion. Click here to read about theprognosis and treatment of central retinal vein occlusion.

Symptoms of Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO)

The symptoms of branch retinal vein occlusion are a sudden blurring or loss of vision in one eye. In more extreme cases, complete vision loss in one eye occurs.

During the course of branch retinal vein occlusion, patients will have a swelling of the eye’s macula, part of the eye responsible for detailed, central vision. This swelling, known as macular edema, may require treatment.

If left untreated, branch retinal vein occlusion can lead to complete and permanent vision loss / blindness in the affected eye.

Causes ofBranch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO)

Branch retinal vein occlusion is when retinal arteries have been thickened or hardened by other medical conditions, which, in turn, places increases pressure or blockages on the smaller retinal veins. This prevents the veins from carrying blood away from the retina.

Risk factors for developing branch retinal vein occlusion are:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension / high blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Smoking
  • Blockage of retinal veins from other eye conditions and diseases such as glaucoma

The risk of this disease, and the underlying conditions that may cause branch retinal vein occlusion, increases with age. Branch retinal vein occlusion is more likely to affect patients over the age of 50.

Diagnosing Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO)

If you experience sudden vision loss, you should contact your eye care professional.

Branch retinal vein occlusion can be diagnosed through a dilated eye exam and slit-lamp examination. This will allow your retinal consultant to examine your retina more thoroughly for signs of damage.

Additional testing using fluorescein angiography may also be necessary to evaluate the retinal blood vessels.

Treatment ofBranch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO)

The goal of treating branch retinal vein occlusion is to stabilize your vision by managing the swelling ofthe macula and reducing the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels that result from occlusion. At present, there is no cure for branch retinal vein occlusion. You may regain some of your vision, but rarely will it return to completely normal.

Branch retinal vein occlusion is most frequently treated using anti-VEGF medications to prevent the growth of abnormal blood vessels. Patients will require ongoing treatment of intravitreal injections of Avastin or Lucentis to manage this condition and prevent further vision loss.

For some patients, laser treatment may be needed to reduce swelling of the macula, known as macular edema. This treatment seals leaking blood vessels and helps to stabilize vision. This helps to ensure the macula functions properly.

In addition to treating branch retinal vein occlusion, it is important that patients also manage any other health conditions that might cause complications in the future.

Recommended changes to your lifestyle to reduce risk of developing retinal vein occlusion include:

  • Properly managing diabetes
  • Eating a low-fat diet
  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining an ideal weight
  • Getting regular exercise