Acute, painless, partial or complete loss of vision
BRAO is a blockage of one of the arteries in the retina and poses significant risks to vision. The most common causes of BRAO include cholesterol emboli from aorto-carotid atheromatous plaques, platelet-fibrin emboli from thrombotic disease (blood clot), and calcific emboli from cardiac valvular disease.
Risk factors for a BRAO include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, heart valve problems, intravenous drug abuse, atrial fibrillation, or history of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). Having a family history of blood clots or clotting disorder also increases your risk.
Symptoms of a branch retinal artery occlusion include acute painless loss of vision or blurring in one eye. Vision loss may be complete or partial. Some patients may experience brief episodes (1-10 minutes) of vision loss known as amaurosis fugax prior to developing a BRAO, and some patients may be asymptomatic.
Following a BRAO, vision can range from normal to extremely limited. If you have had a BRAO, regular visits with your ophthalmologist are essential. Rarely, patients can develop neovascularization which leads to further vision loss and possibly glaucoma. Depending on your age, a focused work up will be performed to identify risk factors and find the cause (which can be identified in 90% of patients). Managing the cause, either medical or surgical, as well as controlling the factors causing the condition can lessen the chances of BRAO recurring, worsening over time, or of having a stroke. Working with your general practitioner or cardiologist to best control any risk factors you may have can help to reduce the risk of a BRAO.