What is Retinal Vein Occlusion?

The retina is composed of a thin layer of light-sensitive nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye, which focuses and converts images into electrical impulses which are carried to the brain by the optic nerve to create sight.1 Additional significant structures of the retina include arteries and veins, which provide essential oxygen and nutrients to the retina and maintain retinal circulation.2-4

Within the eye, veins are responsible for draining blood away from the retina; retinal vein occlusion (RVO) occurs when there is blockage of a vein.1,2 When a vein is unable to drain blood from the retina, swelling of the macula – the central area of the retina (macular edema), bleeding in the retina, or abnormal blood vessel growth (neovascularization) in the eye can occur.3,5 A blockage of the central vein is called a central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) and blockage of smaller vein is called a branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO).5,6

RVO is the second most common disease of blood vessels within the retina, the first being diabetic retinopathy.7-10 BRVO is 6-7 times more common than CRVO. People who have RVO have an increased risk of other cardiovascular diseases (including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and peripheral artery disease) and death. It is important to see your primary care provider (PCP) soon after RVO diagnosis.6


  1. Lowth M. Retinal vein occlusion. 2017. https://patient.info/eye-care/visual-problems/retinal-vein-occlusion.
  2. American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS). Branch retinal vein occlusion. 2020. https://www.asrs.org/patients/retinal-diseases/24/branch-retinal-vein-occlusion.
  3. Healthline Medical Network. Retina. 2018. https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/retina#2.
  4. Cleveland Clinic. Retinal vein occlusion (RVO). 2019. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14206-retinal-vein-occlusion-rvo.
  5. Flaxel CJ, et al. Retinal vein occlusion Preferred Practice Pattern®. Ophthalmology. 2020;127:P288-P320. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31757503/.
  6. ASRS. Central retinal vein occlusion. 2020. https://www.asrs.org/patients/retinal-diseases/22/central-retinal-vein-occlusion.
  7. Klein R, Klein BE, Moss SE, Meuer SM. The epidemiology of retinal vein occlusion: the Beaver Dam Eye Study. Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2000;98:133-141; discussion 141-143. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11190017/.
  8. Ehlers JP, Fekrat S. Retinal vein occlusion: beyond the acute event. Surv Ophthalmol. 2011;56:281-299. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21601903/.
  9. Jenkins T, Su D, Klufas, MA. RVO Overview. Retina Today. April, 2018:40-58. https://retinatoday.com/articles/2018-apr/rvo-overview.
  10. Cugati S, Wang JJ, Rochtchina E, Mitchell P. Ten-year incidence of retinal vein occlusion in an older population: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Arch Ophthalmol. 2006;124:726-732. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16682596/.
  11. BrainKart.com. Retinal Vein Occlusion. https://www.brainkart.com/article/Retinal-Vein-Occlusion_26075/.

All URLs accessed on 3/1/2022.

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Scientific Council

Neil M. Bressler, MD

James P. Gills Professor of Ophthalmology
Professor of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Baltimore, MD

A. Paul Chous, MA, OD, FAAO

Specializing in Diabetes Eye Care & Education, Chous Eye Care Associates
Adjunct Professor of Optometry, Western University of Health Sciences
AOA Representative, National Diabetes Education Program
Tacoma, WA

Steven Ferrucci, OD, FAAO

Chief of Optometry, Sepulveda VA Medical Center
Professor, Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University
Sepulveda, CA

Julia A. Haller, MD

Wills Eye Hospital
Philadelphia, PA

Allen C. Ho, MD, FACS

Director, Retina Research
Wills Eye Hospital
Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology
Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals
Philadelphia, PA

Charles C. Wykoff, MD, PhD

Director of Research, Retina Consultants of Houston
Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology
Blanton Eye Institute & Houston Methodist Hospital
Houston, TX

Patient & Caregiver Educational Resources

The RELIEF Patient Toolkit is a resource center for patients who have been diagnosed with or who are interested in learning about Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO). Choose from the options below to learn more.

This activity is provided by Med Learning Group.
This activity is supported by an independent medical education grant from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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