crao vs crvo melbourne

CRAO vs CRVO: Unravelling the Intricacies of Retinal Occlusions

The world of ophthalmology is both intriguing and complex. Among the various conditions that can threaten our vision, retinal occlusions stand out as particularly daunting. Within this category, Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO) and Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO) are two major culprits. Understanding the “CRAO vs CRVO” distinction is paramount for clinicians and patients. This blog aims to delineate the intricacies of these conditions.

Introduction to Retinal Occlusions

Retinal Artery Occlusion (RAO): This occurs when there’s a blockage in the retinal artery. There are two types: Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO), where the main artery is blocked, and Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion (BRAO), where a branch of the retinal artery is affected.

Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO): This transpires when there’s an obstruction in the retinal vein. It can be a Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO), where the main vein is blocked, or a Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO), where a branch of the retinal vein is obstructed.

Symptoms and Clinical Presentation

crao vs crvo factors melbourne– CRAO:

– Sudden vision loss, often described as a “curtain coming down.”

– The affected eye may have poor central vision.

– Blurred vision or sudden onset of blindness.


– Vision loss, but can vary from slight to severe.

– Blurred vision due to macular edema.

– Retinal hemorrhages are a common sign.

Risk Factors and Causes

Understanding the risk factors and causes of retinal occlusions is paramount, as this knowledge can inform prevention strategies and early intervention. Both CRAO and CRVO, while similar in their effect on vision, have slightly differing risk profiles. Let’s delve deeper into the underlying causes and common risk factors associated with each condition.

Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO) Risk Factors and Causes

  1. Cardiovascular Disease: A leading contributor, cardiovascular diseases can cause blood clots or plaques that may travel to the eye and block the central retinal artery.
  2. Giant Cell Arteritis: This inflammatory condition can cause swelling of the arteries, including the central retinal artery, leading to occlusion.
  3. High Blood Pressure: Persistently high blood pressure can have harmful effects on blood vessels, including those within the eye.
  4. Diabetes: The disease can result in a range of vascular complications, including conditions that make a person more susceptible to retinal artery occlusions.
  5. Hypercoagulable States: Conditions that make the blood more prone to clotting can lead to obstructions in the retinal arteries.
  6. Valvular Heart Disease: People with certain heart valve diseases might be at an increased risk due to the potential for clot formation.

Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO) Risk Factors and Causes

  1. Age: Older individuals, particularly those over the age of 65, are at an increased risk of developing CRVO.
  2. Glaucoma: Elevated intraocular pressure can compress the central retinal vein, leading to occlusion.
  3. Vascular Diseases: Conditions like hypertension or atherosclerosis can affect the health and integrity of blood vessels, making vein occlusion more likely.
  4. Blood Disorders: Conditions such as polycythemia vera or sickle cell disease can predispose individuals to vein occlusions.
  5. Inflammatory Conditions: Diseases like Behçet’s disease or sarcoidosis can cause inflammation of the blood vessels, including the central retinal vein.
  6. Oral Contraceptives: Some studies suggest a correlation between the use of oral contraceptives and an increased risk of CRVO.

Shared Risk Factors

While the aforementioned factors lean more towards one condition than the other, several risk factors are shared between CRAO and CRVO:

  1. Age: As one advances in age, the likelihood of developing vascular issues increases.
  2. Smoking: This habit significantly exacerbates the risk of blood vessel issues and, consequently, occlusions.
  3. High Cholesterol: Elevated cholesterol levels can lead to arterial plaques and impact the health of veins.
  4. Obesity: Excessive weight is associated with a range of cardiovascular issues, which, in turn, can increase the risk of retinal occlusions.
  5. Chronic Kidney Disease: Impaired kidney function has been linked to a higher risk of both CRAO and CRVO.


Diagnosing retinal occlusions accurately is essential for determining the best course of treatment. Both CRAO and CRVO have distinct clinical presentations, but they also share common diagnostic methods.

Diagnostic Methods for Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO)

  1. Fundoscopic Examination: The most basic diagnostic tool. Upon examination, the ophthalmologist may observe a pale retina with a distinctive cherry-red spot at the fovea.
  2. Fluorescein Angiography: This involves injecting a dye into the bloodstream and then photographing the retina. In CRAO, there’ll be a delay or absence of arterial filling and slow venous return.
  3. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): A non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to take cross-sectional images of the retina. It can detect retinal thickening or thinning, which can be indicative of CRAO.
  4. Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) and C-reactive Protein (CRP): If giant cell arteritis is suspected as an underlying cause, these blood tests can be used to confirm inflammation.
  5. Carotid Ultrasound: To check for carotid artery stenosis or plaque, which could be a source of emboli leading to CRAO.
  6. Echocardiography: Used to detect potential sources of emboli in the heart.

Diagnostic Methods for Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO)

  1. Fundoscopic Examination: Characteristic findings include retinal haemorrhages, venous dilation, tortuosity, and possibly macular edema.
  2. Fluorescein Angiography: Useful in differentiating between ischemic and non-ischemic types of CRVO by identifying areas of non-perfusion.
  3. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): Particularly useful in detecting and quantifying macular oedema, a frequent complication of CRVO.
  4. Intraocular Pressure Measurement: Elevated eye pressure can be both a risk factor for and a complication of CRVO.
  5. Blood Tests: To check for associated systemic conditions like diabetes, hypercoagulable states, or hypertension.

Shared Diagnostic Methods

For both CRAO and CRVO, the following are generally recommended:

  1. Visual Acuity Test: Measures the sharpness of vision. A sudden drop in visual acuity can be indicative of either condition.
  2. Visual Field Testing: Helps in assessing the extent of vision loss and pinpointing areas of the visual field that are affected.
  3. Tonometry: Measures the intraocular pressure. Elevated intraocular pressure can be a risk factor for CRVO and can also occur as a secondary complication in both conditions.

Treatment Modalities

The treatment for retinal occlusions depends on the type of occlusion (CRAO or CRVO), its cause, and the extent of the damage. Both conditions mandate prompt medical attention to optimise outcomes and minimise lasting vision impairment.

Treatment for Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO)

  1. Ocular Massage: An initial intervention where the doctor may perform a gentle massage on the affected eye. This might help dislodge the clot obstructing the retinal artery.
  2. Lowering Intraocular Pressure: Medications like acetazolamide or mannitol can be administered to reduce eye pressure, which may help increase blood flow to the retina.
  3. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Breathing in oxygen under increased pressure can enhance the amount of oxygen reaching the retina, possibly helping in retinal recovery.
  4. Anterior Chamber Paracentesis: A procedure in which a small amount of fluid is removed from the front part of the eye to rapidly decrease intraocular pressure.
  5. Vasodilators: Drugs like nifedipine can help in dilating the blood vessels to improve blood flow.
  6. Treatment for Underlying Causes: For instance, if giant cell arteritis is suspected, immediate high-dose corticosteroids are essential.
  7. Preventative Measures: As CRAO can be a sign of cardiovascular disease, it’s crucial to address underlying cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.

Treatment for Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO)

  1. crao vs crvo check melbourneIntravitreal Injections: Medications, particularly anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) agents or steroids, can be injected directly into the eye to reduce macular oedema and improve vision.
  2. Laser Therapy: Focal laser treatment can help reduce macular oedema by sealing off leaking blood vessels. In cases with severe retinal ischemia, panretinal photocoagulation might be used to prevent or treat abnormal blood vessel growth and its complications.
  3. Surgical Procedures: Procedures like vitrectomy can be employed, especially when there are vitreous haemorrhages.
  4. Managing Underlying Conditions: Just as with CRAO, addressing systemic conditions like diabetes and hypertension is pivotal.
  5. Observation: In some cases of non-ischemic CRVO, observation with regular follow-ups might be recommended, as the condition can self-resolve or stabilise.

Shared Treatment Modalities

Both CRAO and CRVO share some common grounds in treatment:

  1. Blood-thinning Medications: Medications like aspirin or warfarin may be prescribed to reduce the risk of future clots.
  2. Lifestyle Changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle by managing weight, avoiding smoking, and controlling blood sugar and blood pressure can be beneficial in both conditions.
  3. Close Monitoring: Regular follow-ups with comprehensive eye exams are crucial for tracking the progression and making timely treatment decisions.

Outcomes and Prognosis

The prognostic implications of retinal occlusions, be it CRAO or CRVO, largely depend on the severity of the occlusion, its etiology, the timeliness of interventions, and associated complications. As both conditions involve critical blood vessels that nourish the retina, their impact on visual function can be substantial.

Outcomes for Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO)

  1. Visual Acuity: The sudden onset of vision loss in CRAO often results in poor visual outcomes. While some spontaneous improvement can occur within the first few days, permanent vision loss is common if not treated within the critical first hours.
  2. Subsequent Risks: CRAO is frequently considered an “eye stroke,” and its occurrence could be an indicator of broader systemic health issues, notably cardiovascular disease. Patients with CRAO have an elevated risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, and other vascular events.
  3. Complications: Prolonged retinal ischemia due to CRAO can lead to complications like neovascular glaucoma, a severe form of glaucoma that can result in profound vision loss and pain.

Outcomes for Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO)

  1. Ischemic vs. Non-Ischemic CRVO: The prognosis differs significantly between these two types. Non-ischemic CRVO generally has a better visual prognosis, with a chance of spontaneous improvement. However, it can sometimes transition into the ischemic variant. Ischemic CRVO is more severe, with a poorer visual outcome and a higher risk of complications.
  2. Macular Edema: This is a common complication of CRVO and can be a persistent issue affecting vision. However, with treatments like anti-VEGF injections and laser therapy, many patients experience improvement.
  3. Neovascularisation: Due to extensive retinal ischemia, new, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the retina or iris. These vessels can cause complications such as vitreous haemorrhage or neovascular glaucoma, which can further compromise vision.

General Prognostic Factors

  1. Duration of Occlusion: The longer the retina is deprived of blood, the worse the visual outcome. Immediate treatment can sometimes help salvage vision.
  2. Underlying Causes: Addressing and managing systemic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or blood clotting disorders, can influence outcomes.
  3. Extent of Occlusion: Partial or branch occlusions generally have a better prognosis than complete or central occlusions.
  4. Age and General Health: Younger patients and those without significant systemic health issues might have a slightly better prognosis.

Prevention and Risk Reduction



Given the potentially severe consequences of CRAO and CRVO, an emphasis on prevention and risk factor management is paramount. While not all cases are preventable, several strategies can be employed to reduce the risk of these conditions.

Manage Cardiovascular Risk Factors

  1. Blood Pressure Control: Hypertension is a significant risk factor. Regular check-ups, adhering to prescribed medications, and lifestyle changes such as reduced salt intake can help in managing blood pressure levels.
  2. Diabetes Management: Keeping blood sugar levels within the recommended range is crucial. Regular monitoring, medication adherence, and dietary modifications are vital aspects of diabetes care.
  3. Lipid Profile Management: Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels can contribute to vascular diseases. Regular screenings and appropriate medical treatments, alongside a balanced diet, can be beneficial.
  4. Smoking Cessation: Smoking is a known risk factor for numerous cardiovascular diseases. Quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk of retinal occlusions and other vascular conditions.

Regular Eye Check-ups

  1. Early Detection: Regular comprehensive eye exams can help in the early identification of changes in the retina, allowing for timely interventions and management.
  2. Monitoring Retinal Veins and Arteries: Those with a history of minor retinal artery or vein occlusions should be closely monitored for potential progression or recurrence.

Lifestyle Measures

  1. Diet: A heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can contribute to vascular health and reduce the risk of clot formation.
  2. Exercise: Regular physical activity promotes cardiovascular health, aiding in blood circulation and reducing the risk of clotting.
  3. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight can significantly reduce the risk of hypertension, diabetes, and other cardiovascular diseases.

Medications and Therapies

  1. Blood Thinners: For those at high risk, anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications might be prescribed to prevent clot formation.
  2. Regular Medication Reviews: Periodic reviews of one’s medication list with a doctor can help in identifying drugs that might increase the risk of clotting.
  3. Stress Management: Chronic stress can contribute to vascular complications. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and regular relaxation can be useful.

Education and Awareness

  1. Recognise Symptoms: Being aware of the symptoms of CRAO and CRVO can lead to quicker medical attention, potentially reducing the severity of outcomes.
  2. Understand the Risks: Those with a family or personal history of vascular events or conditions like cardiac valvular disease need to be particularly vigilant.

Conclusion and Parting Thoughts

crao vs crvo melbourne consultUnderstanding the nuances of “CRAO vs CRVO” is more than just grasping medical terminology. It’s about recognising the profound impact such conditions can have on a person’s life. Whether it’s the sudden vision loss from a CRAO or the gradual degradation from a CRVO, the effects are life-altering.

By being informed, one can take proactive measures – from regular comprehensive eye exams to addressing risk factors like high blood pressure. Additionally, should symptoms like sudden vision loss or blurred vision occur, understanding their potential severity can hasten medical treatment – a pivotal factor in outcomes.

Contact us at (03) 9070 5753 if you have any more questions or concerns about CRAO vs CRVO and how to stay vigilant about your vision health. We are here to help.

Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.


Signs of Retinal Detachment – Recognising the Condition
signs of retinal detachment melbourne

A retinal detachment is considered an ocular emergency requiring prompt treatment to save your sight. Although a retinal detachment is painless, without attention from an Read more

Macular Degeneration Causes — Everything You Need To Know
macular degeneration causes melbourne

The macula is an anatomical part of the retina. The retina is the tissue lining the back of the eye, comprised of millions of photoreceptors Read more

Retinal Detachment Symptoms — How to Identify Them?
retinal detachment symptoms melbourne

The retina is a delicate layer of tissue lining the inside of the eyeball at the back. Its function is to detect incoming light, convert Read more

Retinal Vein Occlusion Symptoms — Everything You Need To Know
retinal vein occlusion symptoms melbourne

The retina is a complex piece of tissue. It's responsible for receiving light coming into the eye, converting it into a neural signal, and sending Read more

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.