Retinal artery occlusion is when a blood vessel in the eye becomes blocked, preventing blood from reaching retinal cells. Without blood, these cells cannot function, and you will experience a sudden blurring or loss of vision in part or all of one eye. Sometimes this will pass, but if the blockage remains you can experience permanent vision loss. Retinal artery occlusion is normally associated with other health problems and requires additional follow-up.

If you experience sudden blurring or vision loss, treat it as an eye emergency. It could be retinal artery occlusion or another vascular occlusion condition that may lead to permanent vision loss if not properly treated.

In San Diego, retinal artery occlusion treatment is best left to the ophthalmologists and retina specialists at California Retina Associates. Please call California Retina Associates at (619) 425-7755 or (760) 352-7755 during our hours for immediate care at one of our locations, or contact emergency assistance at other times.

Understanding Retinal Artery Occlusion

As with all cells in the body, and especially parts of the central nervous system, your retina depends on its supply of blood, which brings it nutrients and oxygen, and removes waste products. Your retina is supplied by tiny blood vessels in the eye that begin with a central blood vessel, then branch out to supply the entire retina.

Blockages can occur in the central blood vessel (called central retinal artery occlusion or CRAO) or in one of the branch vessels (called branch retinal artery occlusion or BRAO). The amount of vision loss or blurring you experience depends on the type of retinal artery occlusion. CRAO threatens the vision in your entire eye, while BRAO will threaten only part of your vision.

Treatment for Retinal Artery Occlusion

Retinal artery occlusion treatments have been tested, but have only marginal success. However, in any given case, they may be the difference between significant vision loss and only a small amount or none at all.

At California Retina Associates in San Diego, retinal artery occlusion treatment usually includes:

  • Intensify carbon dioxide levels by breathing into a paper bag – You can begin this at home, but do not try to drive either with vision loss or low oxygen. Breathing elevated carbon dioxide levels can sometimes cause your blood vessels to expand to the point that the blockage will pass further down the blood vessel, reducing the amount of damage.
  • Eye massage
  • A drug designed to break up blood clots
  • Reduction of intraocular pressure to free the clot

These treatments can improve your odds of retaining more vision. If you have central retinal artery occlusion, your ability to recover vision depends on the circulatory structure of your eye. If you have a supplemental artery (about half of people have them), you have an 80% chance of recovering 20/50 vision.

If you have branch retinal artery occlusion, or if treatment can pass the clot down into one of the branches, your vision should return to 20/40 in the affected eye, but you will likely lose peripheral vision.

Risk Factors for Retinal Artery Occlusion

People are more likely to experience retinal artery occlusion if they have any of the following other conditions:

  • Carotid artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart rhythm or valve problem
  • High blood pressure
  • High fat levels in the blood
  • Intravenous drug use

Often, retinal artery occlusion is a warning sign for a possible stroke. If you suffer from this condition, you should get follow-up care to check on your overall cardiovascular health.

Retinal Artery Occlusion Treatment San Diego

Retinal artery occlusion is a vision-threatening condition that affects the subtle structures of the retina. It is also time-sensitive. A skilled retina doctor with the training and experience to inform quick diagnosis and action can make all the difference in the degree of your vision loss. At California Retina Associates, we have assembled nationally-recognized experts in retinal care to ensure you get appropriate treatment for all retina-related vision conditions.

If you have experienced vision loss in one or both eyes, call (619) 425-7755 or (760) 352-7755. If you want to schedule an appointment for less-urgent concerns at one of our San Diego-area locations, please contact California Retina Associates today.