A Retinal Artery Occlusion can occur in either the Central Retinal Artery or in a Branch Retinal Artery that splits off the Central Retinal Artery. Either artery can become blocked by a clot or “embolus” in the bloodstream. A Retinal Artery Occlusion is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention. When an artery occlusion occurs, it decreases the oxygen supply to the area of the Retina nourished by the affected artery, causing permanent vision loss. Most patients who suffer Retinal Artery Occlusions are between the ages of 50 and 80. They notice a sudden, painless loss of vision that can be a complete loss of vision if it is a Central Retinal Artery Occlusion, or can be a partial loss of their visual field if it is a Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion. Sometimes the major loss of vision is preceded by one or more episodes of “Amaurosis Fugax” or transient loss of vision.
Often, patients who have Retinal Artery Occlusions have other significant health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart arrhythmias or high cholesterol. A cause of Retinal Artery Occlusion in patients over the age of 60 may be due to an underlying inflammatory condition called Giant Cell Arteritis. Some patients who have Retinal Artery Occlusion will also experience a type of Glaucoma as a secondary complication.
In the event that Center for Sight Retinal Specialist Robert Kelly, M.D. diagnoses you with a Retinal Artery Occlusion, or identifies a warning sign that you might be at risk for a Retinal Artery Occlusion because he observes the presence of a “plaque” in one or more of your retinal arteries, he will promptly refer you to your Internist or Cardiologist for thorough evaluation and testing including a blood pressure evaluation, electrocardiogram (EKG), fasting blood glucose, lipid and cholesterol levels, and hyperviscosity studies in order to help better understand your overall health.
Treatment of Retinal Artery Occlusions
A Central Retinal Artery Occlusion has typically been considered an emergency. It was felt that, if the clot or ‘embolus” could be dislodged within 90 minutes of the blockage, it would be possible to preserve vision. To accomplish this, a number of methods have been tried to dilate or widen the artery or to free the embolus including breathing into a paper bag to increase your blood carbon dioxide levels so that blood vessels dilate, massaging the eye, draining some Aqueous Humor fluid from the front of the eye and using various medications to lower the Intraocular Pressure to decrease internal eye resistance to blood flow as well as attempts to dissolve the clot. Some eye physicians might attempt these treatments if the occlusion were less than 24 hours old, however, large scale studies do not indicate that the final visual outcome of patients treated aggressively is significantly different than those treated conservatively.
If you need to be evaluated for your risk of Retinal Vascular Disease such as Retinal Artery Occlusion, please call us to schedule an appointment in Fall River, Massachusetts at
Center for Sight is conveniently located for patients in need of evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of Central Retinal Artery Occlusion & Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion in Massachusetts or Rhode Island from Attleboro, Fairhaven, Fall River, Franklin, Mansfield, Marion, Mattapoisett, Medfield, Milford, New Bedford, North Attleboro, North Dartmouth, Norton, Oxford, Rehoboth, Somerset, Swansea, Taunton, Walpole, Whitinsville, Woonsocket, Providence, Smithfield, Westport, Lakeville, Dighton, Little Compton, and Tiverton.