Injecting the eye with medications can improve vision in patients who have blockage in an eye vein, a new study shows. But laser treatment may be a better option for patients who have blockages in small branches of the vein.
Millions of Americans lose some of their vision each year. Vision loss can occur if a blood clot blocks blood flow to the eye’s retina. This leads to a condition called retinal vein occlusion. In some cases, the blockage leads to macular edema, a common cause of blindness.
Eye doctors often use laser therapy to improve vision in patients with blockages in small branches of the vein. But there’s been no proven treatment for patients with blockages in the main vein. Some doctors have found that injecting the eye with medications called corticosteroids can improve vision in patients with either kind of blockage.
To find out which treatments might be best for different patients, NIH-funded scientists studied nearly 700 people. All had vision loss and blockages in either the large or the small veins of the retina.
After 1 year, corticosteroid injections significantly improved vision in about 26% patients who had blockages in the main retina vein. Only 7% of patients who generally received no treatment had similar improvements. The finding provides the first solid evidence that eye injections are an effective long-term treatment for this type of vision loss.
For patients with small-vein blockage, eye injections significantly improved vision in about 1 out of 4 patients. Laser therapy was just as effective. But patients receiving injections were more likely to develop other eye problems. Because laser therapy led to fewer complications, it may be the best option for patients with blockages in smaller veins.