Understanding retinal vein occlusion

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.<sup>1</sup>

There are two types of RVO:1

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

  • Central RVO (CRVO) occurs when the eye’s 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 28 million adults are affected by RVO globally

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 factors⁴


people aged 50 or older


high blood pressure


hardening of the arteries

All types of diabetes

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


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

Signs and symptoms²

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

Temporary loss of central vision

Central and peripheral visual disturbances

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

Impact of RVO

Impaired vision can impact:5

  • 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. Song P, Xu Y, Zha M, Zhang Y, Rudan I. Global epidemiology of retinal vein occlusion: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prevalance, incidence, and risk factors. J Glob Health. 2019 Jun;9(1):010427.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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