Image featuring icons related to retinal vein occlusion

Understanding retinal vein occlusion

Published 28 August 2019 

Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a blockage of the blood supply to the retina, a part of the eye that sends information to the brain enabling sight. RVO can lead to severe and sudden vision loss.1

There are two types of RVO:1

  • Central RVO (CRVO) occurs when the eye’s central retinal vein becomes blocked
  • Branch RVO (BRVO) occurs when one of the four smaller ‘branches’ of the main, central retinal vein becomes blocked

An RVO blocks the blood supply to the retina, ‘starving’ the retina of oxygen so it is unable to send visual information to the brain. This blockage prevents blood draining from the retina, which leads to haemorrhages and fluid leakage, causing swelling.1,2

Global burden

An estimated 16.4 million adults are affected by RVO globally:

Image of world depicting burden of CRVO

2.5 million by CRVO

Image world depicting burden of BRVO

13.9 million by BRVO

RVO is the second most common cause of vision loss due to retinal vascular diseases – diseases that affect the blood vessels in the eye.3

Risk factors3

Image of a middle aged person at the forefront with old and young behind

people aged 50 or older

Hypertension image

high blood pressure

Arteriosclerosis image

hardening of the arteries

Drop of blood image

All types of diabetes
caused by a lack of insulin (type 1), an insufficient response to insulin (type 2), or pregnancy (gestational)

Cloudy eye image

optic nerve damage due to fluid build-up in the eye

Signs and symptoms2

Image of blurred vision depicted over an eye

Sudden painless blurring or vision loss in part of or all of one eye

Image of central vision loss depicted over an eye

Temporary loss of central vision

Image of central and peripheral visual disturbances depicted over an eye

Central and peripheral visual disturbances

Blind spots depicted over an eye

Patches of vision loss, appearing as ‘floating’ small black dots or lines

Impact of retinal vein occlusion


Impaired vision can impact:4

  • The ability to carry out everyday tasks
  • The ability to work
  • The ability to lead an active social life
  • Quality of life, with increased social isolation, depression and anxiety disorders

Annual eye test


Getting an annual eye test is the best way to detect any changes in vision. A dilated retinal examination will help to diagnose any retinal diseases. If you’d like more information on RVO or other retinal diseases, talk to your optician or visit


  1. National Eye Institute. Central Retinal Vein Occlusion. [Internet; cited May 2019]. Available from:
  2. Macular Society. Retinal vein occlusion. [Internet; cited May 2019]. Available from:
  3. Laouri M, Chen E, Looman M, Gallagher M. The burden of disease of retinal vein occlusion: review of the literature. Eye. 2011; 25:981-8.
  4. Park SJ, Ahn S, Woo SJ, et al. Extent of Exacerbation of Chronic Health Conditions by Visual Impairment in Terms of Health-Related Quality of Life. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2015; 133:1267-1275.

Tags: Science, Ophthalmology