The back of the eye and thus the retina is supplied with blood through the central artery. The patency is absolutely necessary to ensure that the retina receives the necessary amount of oxygen to produce a perfect image. If the central artery (arterial occlusion of the eye) or the small arteries leading away from it become blocked, the patient suddenly becomes blind in the affected eye, possibly for a limited period of time. The blindness may continue until an appropriate therapy has been initiated or may be only temporary (so-called amaurosis fugax, which is a harbinger of arterial occlusion of the eye). However, painless blindness of the eye is always characteristic.
Causes of arterial occlusion in the eye
An artery occlusion in the eye can be caused either by deposits in the vessels or by a blood clot that blocks the vessel. Deposits occur in the context of arteriosclerosis. Blood clots usually form in the eye itself, but they can also enter the eye from other vessels, such as the carotid artery or the heart.
Another cause is diabetes mellitus. Retinopathy, which occurs in late stages of this disease, can also lead to occlusion of the ocular artery. Vascular inflammation or high blood pressure can also cause occlusion. The occlusion leads to a lack of oxygen in the tissue, as sufficient blood circulation is no longer guaranteed. If this deficiency continues, the sensory cells die and blindness results.
The symptoms of arterial occlusion are restricted to the affected eye only. Pain does not usually occur. Those affected usually report a sudden loss of vision. However, there is the problem that the loss of vision is compensated by the brain, as the other eye is not affected by the occlusion. Therefore, the visual loss can be compensated and the patient does not notice anything more of the disease until the doctor diagnoses it.
Blindness due to arterial occlusion
An artery occlusion can affect either the central artery or a branch of the central artery. If the central artery is occluded, it manifests itself by sudden, painless, unilateral blindness. Branch artery occlusion is more likely to result in loss of visual field and deterioration of vision. In both cases, the cause is that the lack of blood supply to the retina means that the sensory cells are not supplied with sufficient oxygen, so that they die. Even after therapy, the chances of success in regaining sight are very poor.
Detection of an arterial occlusion of the eye
The ophthalmologist, who should be consulted immediately, is likely to make the diagnosis of a central artery transfer quickly after completing the patient interview. He will then look at the back of the eye with a lamp (ophthalmoscopy) and, in the case of arterial occlusion of the eye, will often be able to see bright, small cholesterol chunks at the branches of the retinal arteries. In addition, the vessels branching off from the central artery are unusually narrow, an edema of the retina is noticeable, on which a cherry red structure (the blind spot) stands out.