Living with retinal vein occlusion
Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is an eye disease more likely to occur in people over 60. It is associated with risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking.
Retinal vein occlusion happens when a blockage develops in a retinal vein at the back of the eye. The blockage itself can't be removed, but complications can be treated. Although there is a risk to your central vision in the affected eye, it's possible to adapt and continue enjoying daily life with retinal vein occlusion.
Managing your retinal vein occlusion
If you've been diagnosed with either branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO) or central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO), you'll have regular follow-up appointments with an ophthalmologist to monitor the affected eye. There is a risk of complications due to leakage of blood and fluid in the eye, including macular oedema, abnormal new blood vessels, and glaucoma (high eye pressure). Central retinal vein occlusion increases the risk of complications and visual loss.
Various treatment options are available to manage complications of retinal vein occlusion, including injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor medicine (anti-VEGF), steroid implants, and laser therapy. Some people may choose to be monitored initially rather than having active treatment. This is something to discuss with your ophthalmologist.
You may be advised how to manage any risk factors to help reduce the chance of retinal vein occlusion happening in your other eye. This might include:
- Managing your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
- Lowering your blood pressure if you've been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Bringing down high cholesterol levels
- Getting advice on stopping smoking
Can you drive with retinal vein occlusion?
The DVLA has minimum standards of vision for driving. Their eyesight rules cover both visual acuity and field of vision. Retinal vein occlusion typically affects one eye. If the sight in your unaffected eye meets the required standard, you don't need to tell the DVLA. If you have any questions or concerns, speak to your ophthalmologist for advice.
Working with retinal vein occlusion
You'll probably need regular treatment for retinal vein occlusion, with follow-up appointments over several years. It's a good idea to speak to your employer about your diagnosis. They should make reasonable adjustments for you, such as giving you time to attend appointments.
If you develop vision problems in the affected eye, which is often the case with central retinal vein occlusion, you could still work with some adjustments. Employers must make reasonable adjustments to help you. You may need to explain the kind of things that could help, for example:
- Low vision aids such as magnifiers to help with reading
- Large print materials or products, such as keyboards and phones
- Screen reader software and other technology
Find out more ways to make the most of your vision.
The Access to Work scheme also gives grants to employers for equipment or services you need to work. Grants could pay for a support worker, transport for getting to and from work, and more.
Support for people living with retinal vein occlusion
Being diagnosed with retinal vein occlusion can be a worrying time. You're likely to be facing a lot of follow-up appointments for treatment over a long time. You may feel nervous about the possibility of complications. And, especially with central retinal vein occlusion, you may have to deal with visual loss in the affected eye.
Try talking to family and friends about your feelings. They may support you better if they understand how you feel. It can also help to speak to other people who've had retinal vein occlusion. Contact us to find out how we can connect you with others.
If you're dealing with central vision loss, there are tips and products, support and services to help you be as independent as possible and continue with a good quality of life. Your ophthalmologist or eye clinic may refer you for a low vision assessment to explore the useful vision you have and the visual aids that will make the most of it. Local social services can support you in keeping safe at home and getting around safely if sight loss affects your mobility.
Practical ideas to help make the most of your vision include:
- Using plenty of bright and even lighting at home.
- Low vision aids like magnifiers that help you to see details. Some simple, low-tech solutions, like phones with large numbers and large print keyboards, can make life easier.
- Everyday technology. You can read books, newspapers, and magazines on e-readers and tablets in large text. Computers and phones can read your messages out loud. You can also get clever tech such as talking microwaves and weighing scales.
Frequently asked questions
Get in touch
You can contact us to find out about services and support tailored to your individual needs.
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.