This study demonstrated an association between RVO and stroke.
This study demonstrated an association between RVO and stroke. Photo: Julie Rodman, OD. Click image to enlarge.

While previous studies have found a link between retinal artery occlusion and stroke, few have been conducted on the association between stroke and retinal vein occlusion (RVO). Since cardiovascular disease increases the risk of stroke and RVO, researchers recently sought to determine whether this condition is associated with the risk of stroke independent of underlying cardiovascular comorbidities.

Records of over 80,000 individuals with RVO, stroke and cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, carotid disease, coronary artery disease and atrial fibrillation who were evaluated by an ophthalmologist over six years were reviewed.

After adjusting for age, sex, cardiovascular disease and other risk factors, the findings showed an association between RVO and stroke independent of any underlying cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular risk factors. It was especially strong in those younger than 50. There was no significant association between RVO and stroke in individuals older than 85, which was somewhat surprising to the authors.

“Hence, an extensive medical workup may not necessarily be indicated for those who develop RVO in this older age group,” they explained in their paper on the research, published in the journal Eye. “We hypothesize that the strength of the association between RVO and stroke may be attenuated in the older age group because older age is an independent risk factor for RVO, stroke and cardiovascular disease.”

Due to the cross-sectional nature of the study, the authors noted they could not determine if RVO precedes stroke; however, given the association between the two, the presence of RVO—even in the setting of already diagnosed cardiovascular disease—may warrant further evaluation, closer follow-up and communication with primary care providers regarding optimizing management of existing cardiovascular conditions and risk factors.

Bakhoum CY, Madala S, Long CK, et al. Retinal vein occlusion is associated with stroke independent of underlying cardiovascular disease. Eye (Lond). April 11, 2022. [Epub ahead of print].