A brief review of Valsalva retinopathy
Medical hypothesis, discovery & innovation in optometry,
Vol. 3 No. 2 (2022),
29 October 2022
Background: Valsalva retinopathy is a specific type of retinopathy that appears following an acute rise in intrathoracic or intra-abdominal pressure. This review focuses on current literature and future directions for the diagnosis and management of Valsalva retinopathy.
Methods: In this brief review, the literature was searched to provide an extensive general and updated description of Valsalva retinopathy, focusing on its management and prognosis. Selected articles are summarized to present the etiology, general pathology, pathophysiology, symptoms, signs, diagnosis, differential diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of Valsalva retinopathy.
Results: The main symptom of Valsalva retinopathy is loss of visual acuity following exertion. This is caused by the rupture of small superficial vessels in the macula and perimacular areas, leading to extravasation of blood. No link between age, sex, or race has been found, although fundus vessel abnormalities pose some predisposition to the disease. During fundoscopy, Valsalva retinopathy appears most frequently as well-defined preretinal hemorrhages confined to the sub-internal limiting membrane (ILM) or subhyaloid space. If ILM rupture occurs, hyaloid hemorrhage can appear. Diagnosis is based on the patient’s medical history and a standard examination. Usually, only observation of the patient is required, with the hemorrhage resolving within weeks to months. In cases of large premacular hemorrhage or large sub-ILM/subhyaloid hemorrhage, vitrectomy or Nd:YAG krypton laser membranotomy can be performed.
Conclusions: Of all the aspects of Valsalva retinopathy that might trouble the physician, the most challenging features are differential diagnosis and the choice of optimal treatment. Therapeutic strategies for Valsalva retinopathy can be either conservative or based on Nd:YAG laser membranotomy and/or vitrectomy. All methods seem to have good outcomes. However, physicians should not be afraid of advancing beyond conservative therapy, especially in the event of persistent premacular hemorrhage, which could lead to permanent retinal damage if valuable time is lost, even after vitrectomy.