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Central retinal vein occlusion - External and Internal Eye
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Central retinal vein occlusion - External and Internal Eye

Contributors: Rachel Ellis MD, Andrew Goodfriend MD, D. Chimene Richa MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) is a potentially blinding subacute vascular occlusion of the eye. The prevalence of CRVO is between 0.1% and 0.4% in individuals who are aged 40 or older. Most patients have associated local or systemic disease, with systemic hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and open-angle glaucoma being the most common. 

The central retinal artery and vein share a common adventitial sheath as they exit the optic nerve head and pass through the lamina cribrosa. Often in CRVO, a rigid atherosclerotic artery impinges on the nearby vein, causing turbulence and predisposing to thrombus formation. With increased resistance of venous flow, the retina becomes ischemic and fluid leaks out of the vessels. Increased intraocular pressure could also cause turbulence of the central retinal vein and lead to thrombus formation and obstruction. 

The occluded central vein can lead to intraretinal hemorrhage, exudation of fluid, varying levels of ischemia, and neovascular complications such as neovascular glaucoma. CRVO is commonly classified by severity into 2 forms: the nonischemic form of CRVO, which is milder and more common, and the ischemic form, which results in more severe retinal damage and vision loss. In ischemic CRVO, more than 90% of patients have vision of 20/400 or worse. One-third of patients with the nonischemic type progress to the ischemic type.

Iris neovascularization, which is associated with neovascular glaucoma, occurs in up to 60% of patients with the ischemic form, usually 3-5 months following the obstruction. The main risk factors for development of neovascular glaucoma after a CRVO are the extent of capillary nonperfusion, poor visual acuity, severe venous tortuosity, and retinal hemorrhage.

The presenting visual acuity at the time of diagnosis of CRVO is the best predictor of visual prognosis. In a patient with CRVO, there is a 10% risk of developing a CRVO in the fellow eye, especially when there is an underlying systemic abnormality.


H34.8191 – Central retinal vein occlusion, unspecified eye, with retinal neovascularization

68478007 – Central retinal vein occlusion

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Branch retinal artery occlusion
  • Branch retinal vein occlusion
  • Central retinal artery occlusion
  • Diabetic retinopathy – usually bilateral; prominent, hard exudates and many more microaneurysms 
  • Ocular ischemic syndrome
  • Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy
  • Hyperviscosity retinopathy – usually bilateral 
  • Retinopathy of Carotid artery stenosis 
  • Cerebral stroke
  • Papilledema with hemorrhage
  • Vitreous hemorrhage
  • Radiation retinopathy
  • Retinal detachment

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Management Pearls

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Reviewed:06/28/2017
Last Updated:11/11/2015
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Central retinal vein occlusion - External and Internal Eye
A medical illustration showing key findings of Central retinal vein occlusion : Afferent pupillary defect, Cotton wool spots, Dilated retinal vessels, Macular edema, Optic disc edema, Retinal hemorrhage, Unilateral distribution, Vision loss
Clinical image of Central retinal vein occlusion - imageId=4174932. Click to open in gallery.
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.