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Retinal vein occlusion: Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis

Douglas J Covert, MD, MPH
Dennis P Han, MD
Section Editor
Jonathan Trobe, MD
Deputy Editor
Howard Libman, MD, FACP


Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is an important cause of visual loss among older adults throughout the world [1]. RVO is the second most common cause of vision loss from retinal vascular disease, following diabetic retinopathy [2].

The epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnostic evaluation of RVO will be discussed here. The treatment of RVO, as well as general issues related to retinal artery occlusion, are discussed separately. (See "Retinal vein occlusion: Treatment" and "Central and branch retinal artery occlusion".)


The anatomic classification of retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is derived from the fundoscopic appearance of the eye and includes three main groups depending on the location of venous occlusion: branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO), central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO), and hemiretinal vein occlusion (HRVO).

BRVO occurs when a vein in the distal retinal venous system is occluded, leading to hemorrhage along the distribution of a small vessel of the retina (picture 1).

CRVO occurs due to thrombus within the central retinal vein at the level of the lamina cribrosa of the optic nerve, leading to involvement of the entire retina (picture 2). The lamina cribrosa is the connective tissue "sieve" consisting of holes through which the nerve fibers pass from the retina to the optic nerve (figure 1).

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 21, 2017.
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