Most people know that high blood pressure and other heart diseases pose risks to your overall health. But many do not know that that high blood pressure can affect vision by damaging the arteries in the eye.
A retinal artery occlusion (RAO) is a blockage in one or more of the arteries of your retina. The blockage is caused by a clot or occlusion in an artery, or a build-up of cholesterol in an artery. This is similar to a stroke.
There are two types of RAOs:
The most common symptom of a retinal artery occlusion (RAO) is sudden, painless vision loss. It can affect all of one eye, in the case of a central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO), or it can affect part of one eye, in the case of branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO). Other symptoms include:
If you have any of these symptoms, get medical help right away to help prevent vision loss.
Men are more likely to have an RAO than women. The disease is most commonly found in people in their '60s. Having certain diseases increases your risk of RAO. These include:
If you experience sudden vision loss, you should contact your ophthalmologist immediately. He or she will conduct a thorough examination to determine if you have had a retinal artery occlusion. Your ophthalmologist will dilate your eyes with dilating drops. This will allow him or her to examine the retina for signs of damage.
Other tests your ophthalmologist may do are:
Several treatments may be tried but none have ever been proven to help consistently. These treatments must be given within a few hours after symptoms begin to be helpful. Treatments include:
Some patients regain vision after a retinal artery occlusion, although vision is often not as good as it was before. In some cases, vision loss can be permanent.