Photo of a Retinal Artery OcclusionIt is well-known that high blood pressure and other vascular diseases pose risks to overall health, but they can also affect eyesight by damaging the arteries in the eye.

RAO usually occurs in people between the ages of 50 and 70. The most common medical problem associated with RAO is arteriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries. Carotid artery disease is found in almost half the people with RAO.

The most common cause of RAO is thrombosis, an abnormal blood clot formation. Sometimes RAO is caused by an embolus, a clot that breaks off from another area of the body and is carried to the retina by the bloodstream.

Retinal artery occlusion (RAO) blocks the artery in your retina, the light-sensitive nerve layer at the back of the eye. RAO may cause sudden and painless loss of vision.

Loss of vision can be permanent without immediate treatment. Irreversible retinal damage occurs after 90 minutes, but even 24 hours after symptoms begin, vision may still be saved. The goal of emergency treatment is to restore retinal blood flow. After emergency treatment a thorough medical evaluation is necessary.