Ophthalmologists recognize retinal vein occlusion (RVO), commonly called "eye stroke," as a serious disease and significant cause of blindness. Surprisingly, the magnitude of the problem had been unclear prior to this first report on worldwide RVO prevalence by the International Eye Disease Consortium (IEDC). Based on data from 15 major population studies in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia, the IEDC estimates that globally, 16.4 million adults are affected by RVO.
For comparison, more than 131 million adults with diabetes worldwide either have diabetic retinopathy or are at risk of developing this potentially blinding disease, according to a 2005 World Health Organization report.
In central and branch retinal vein occlusion (CRVO and BRVO), vision impairment and eye damage occur when the vein becomes blocked, usually by a blood clot. This leads to reduced blood flow, hemorrhage and/or swelling in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that receives images and relays them to the optic nerve. An estimated 13.9 million people worldwide are affected by BRVO, and 2.5 million by CRVO, the IEDC report found. Prevalence is similar in men and women and increases with age, probably because of age-related increases in arteriosclerosis, hypertension and glaucoma or elevated intraocular pressure. Although BRVO prevalence appears to be highest in Asians and Hispanics and lowest in whites, the authors say this may reflect varying methodologies or definitions among reviewed studies rather than true ethnic differences.
"We need to understand how hypertension and other cardiovascular risk factors impact BRVO and CRVO, and how glaucoma impacts CRVO, in various ethnic groups and populations so that appropriate preventive and treatment strategies can be designed," said Tien Y. Wong, MD., PhD, lead investigator for the IEDC.
This research was published in the February issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
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