The central retinal artery is a blood vessel inside the eye. It provides essential nutrients to the retina. The retina lines at the back of the eye and is full of cone cells and rods, which transmit messages to the occipital lobe in the brain’s cerebral cortex. These messages give individuals the ability to tell the difference between light and dark, as well as colors.

The central retinal vein returns the blood to the heart. The artery is a branch of the ophthalmic artery, and works to form the arterioles (smaller branches of an artery) of the retina. If the central retinal artery becomes occluded, or blocked, a rare occlusovascular disease known as central retinal artery occlusion can occur. This disease affects retinal circulation, which causes a painless and sudden loss of vision. Causes for this condition can include retinal embolism, atherosclerosis, and different forms of arteritis, which is inflammation of the lining of arteries.