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What does blood in the back of the eye signify, anyway?

It could be a retinal vein occlusion, an ocular disorder that can occur in older people where the blood vessels to the retina are blocked.

The retina is the back part of the eye where light focuses and transmits images to the brain. Blockage of the veins in the retina can cause sudden vision loss. The severity of vision loss depends on where the blockage is located.

Blockage at smaller branches in the retinal vein is referred to as branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO).  Vision loss in BRVO is usually less severe, and sometimes just parts of the vision is blurry.  Blockage at the main retinal vein of the eye is referred to as central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) and results in more serious vision loss. 

Sometimes blockage of the retinal veins can lead to abnormal new blood vessels developing on the surface of the iris (the colored part of your eye) or the retina. This is a late complication of retinal vein blockage and can occur months after blockage has occurred. These new vessels are harmful and can result in high eye pressure (glaucoma), and bleeding inside the eye.

What are the symptoms of a retinal vein occlusion?

Symptoms can range from painless sudden visual loss to no visual complaints. Sudden visual loss usually occurs in CRVO. In BRVO, vision loss is usually mild or the person can be asymptomatic. If new blood vessels develop on the iris, then the eye can become red and painful. If these new vessels grow on the retina, it can result in bleeding inside the eye, causing decreased vision and floaters – spots in your vision that appear to be floating.

Causes of retinal vein occlusion

Hardening of the blood vessels as you age is what predisposes people to retinal vein occlusion.  Retinal vein occlusion is more common in people over the age of 65. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, blood-clotting disorders, and glaucoma are also at higher risk for a retinal vein occlusion.

How is retinal vein occlusion diagnosed?

A dilated eye exam will reveal blood in the retina. A fluorescein angiogram is a diagnostic photographic test in which a colored dye is injected into your arm and a series of photographs are taken of the eye to determine if there is fluid leakage or abnormal blood vessel growth associated with the vein occlusion. An ultrasound or optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a photo taken of the retina to detect any fluid in the retina. 

Treatment for retinal vein occlusion

Not all cases of retinal vein occlusion need to be treated. Mild cases can be observed over time. If there is blurry vision due to fluid in the retina, then your ophthalmologist may treat your eye with a laser or eye injections. If new abnormal blood vessels develop, laser treatment is performed to cause regression of these vessels and prevent bleeding inside the eye. If there is already a significant amount of blood inside the eye, then surgery may be needed to remove the blood.

Outlook after retinal vein occlusion

Prognosis depends on the severity of the vein occlusion. Usually BRVO has less vision loss compared to CRVO. The initial presenting vision is usually a good indicator of future vision. Once diagnosed with a retinal vein occlusion, it is important to keep follow-up appointments to ensure that prompt treatment can be administered to best optimize your visual potential.

 

 Article contributed by Dr. Jane Pan

This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

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What can be expected during a contact lens fitting?

A patient can expect to have a different experience when having a contact lens fitting. In addition to the eyeglass exam, questions will be asked to determine which contact lens will work best for them. Will they want to leave the lenses in their eyes overnight or will they remove them every day? Will they wear them only occasionally or will they be for everyday use? Do they want a contact lens that they throw away every day or do they want a contact lens that they have to clean and disinfect? If the patient is over age 40 and has a compromised ability to see up close, how will they see up close with their contact lenses? Will they wear readers over their distant contacts, or will they wear multifocal contacts, or will they wear monovision?

Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Experiencing dry eye symptoms is more common as we grow older, particularly in people 50 years of age and older. Hormonal changes in women who are experiencing menopause or who are post-menopausal. Inflammation in our body can affect the tear gland's ability to produce tears. Eye or health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's Syndrome can be associated with Dry Eyes. Environmental conditions such as dry winter air, dry indoor heated air, working on the computer, and wearing contact lenses can cause Dry Eyes.

Are there advantages to single-use contact lenses? What are they?

Single-use daily wear contacts are convenient to the patient and a healthy recommendation from their eye doctor. At the end of the day, the patient only has to dispose of the contacts. There is no need to take the contacts out to clean and disinfect them. The patients time and money spent on solutions and caring for them are eliminated. Not to mention that the next time they wear a contact, they will be wearing a brand new contact! The single best recommendation your eye doctor can make is to recommend single-use daily wear contacts. They are the healthiest contact that can be worn. The contact lens pathology issues of wearing the same contact for two or four weeks such as neovascularization, microcystic edema, and bacterial infections are greatly reduced.

What is an eye infection?

Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and can affect just one eye or both. Two common eye infections are conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) and lid styes which are swollen lid bumps that can also be painful. Common signs of an eye infection are pain, itching, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye, photosensitivity, redness or small red lines in the white of the eye, discharge of yellow pus that may be crusty upon awaking, and tears.

What happens during a typical Diabetic Eye Exam?

Your Eye Doctor will evaluate the back of your eye called the Retina to check for leaking blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated blood sugars damage the walls of the blood vessels. The vessel walls may thicken, leak, develop clots, close off, or grow balloon-like defects called microaneurysms.

My eyes tear all the time. Why do you call it Dry Eyes?

Your eyes have extra tears because your eyes produce extra tears to combat irritation and dryness. A better way to describe Dry Eyes is tear film instability, which refers to the composition of your tears not being in the proper composition. Stopping eyes from producing extra tears is a goal in the treatment of Dry Eyes.

At what age should my child have his/her eyes examined?

If you ask 10 different Doctors you will get 10 different answers. Newborns have their eyes checked in the birthing ward for starters. From birth to age 5 their eyes are growing. At age 5 is a good time to schedule a regular eye examination, however, if any unusual eye behavior is observed under age 5 an eye exam should be scheduled at that time. Unusual eye behavior such as eye squinting, a head tilt, or having to get close to see.