Good Hope, Heartlands, and Solihull Eye Clinics

Retinal artery occlusion 

David Kinshuck

diagram showing the central and branch retinal arteries


Central retinal artery

The central retinal artery is the main artery bringing blood to the retina at the back of the eye.

Branch retinal arteriole

As the central retinal artery enters the eye, it splits into branches.


Blocked central retinal artery or branch retinal arteriole

The central or branch retinal arteriole may block. If they do, then blood cannot reach the retina, and after 3 hours without blood the retina becomes permanently damaged. This is termed a 'central' or 'branch retinal artery occlusion'


blocked retinal artery

bracn retinal arteriole occlusion


Causes of the blockage/occlusion

The blockage in older patients has two common causes.

  1. A common cause is a clot from the neck: the carotid artery surface in the neck becomes rough  (atherosclerosis) and tiny clots break off, a travel up to the eye and block the central or one of the branch retinal arteries.
  2. Another common cause is an embolus from the heart. This may occur if the heart beat is irregular, that is atrial fibrillation. 2015

There are other causes which a re less common.

In younger patients.

  1. There may have been neck injury, and this may damage the artery.
  2. There may be a hole in the heart ' a patent foramen ovale'. This will be a very rare cause.

In younger patients.