Valsalva Retinopathy Treatment & Management

Updated: Jan 13, 2023
  • Author: Charles W Eifrig, MD; Chief Editor: Hampton Roy, Sr, MD  more...
  • Print

Medical Care

Conservative medical treatment is observation. Preretinal hemorrhage (sub–internal limiting membrane and subhyaloid) due to Valsalva retinopathy usually resolves within a few weeks or months. Vitreous hemorrhage may take longer to resolve, depending on the density of the hemorrhage, possibly up to 6 months. [9]

Patients should be instructed to avoid anticoagulant medications and strenuous activities to prevent a rebleed.

Patients should be instructed to sleep in a sitting position to promote blood settling, which may improve visual acuity. However, this effect may be transient upon resumption of physical activities.

Stool softeners may need to be considered for those with constipation.


Surgical Care

Although there is no widely accepted treatment modality other than observation, Nd:YAG laser membranotomy and Krypton laser membranotomy have been described for the treatment of large (>3 disc diameters in size) macular subhyaloid hemorrhages of less than 3 weeks' duration. The membranotomy causes immediate drainage of the hemorrhage into the vitreous cavity, which causes the blood to settle into the inferior vitreous and out of the visual axis, prompting a rapid return of central visual acuity. Pulsed Nd:YAG lasers, krypton lasers, argon lasers, Q-switched Nd:YAG lasers, and frequency doubled Nd:YAG lasers all have been used for disruption of the posterior hyaloid or the internal limiting membrane. [10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21]

The location of the membranotomy should be chosen away from the fovea and major blood vessels, at the inferior edge of the hemorrhage, in an area with sufficient underlying hemorrhage present to protect the retina from laser-induced damage. Complications of such maneuvers include the following: retinal tears; hemorrhaging into the choroidal, subretinal and vitreous spaces; retinal detachment; and permanent visual loss. Pressure applied to the eye (with a contact lens, with a Honan balloon, or digitally) may promote clotting in laser-induced hemorrhaging.

If there is a concomitant or underlying retinal disease that requires immediate attention, a membranectomy can be considered to allow thorough evaluation of the underlying retina.

A membranotomy is a particularly useful procedure in those individuals with poor vision in their fellow eye or in patients who require rapid restoration of their vision to continue work.

If a dense vitreous hemorrhage or significant premacular hemorrhaging is present (and no improvement with initial observation), pars plana vitrectomy may be required. 



A consultation with a retinal specialist is recommended to better diagnose and treat the underlying problem and to evaluate any other concomitant retinal pathology contributing to the disease process.



Diet restrictions are not essential in the management of Valsalva retinopathy. A diet rich in fiber is advisable for those patients with constipation in order to prevent further Valsalva maneuvers that possibly could cause a rebleed.



To reduce the risk of a rebleed, physical activity should be limited immediately after the clinical diagnosis and until the retina has sufficiently healed.

Individuals with known proliferative diabetic retinopathy (or other retinal vascular diseases) are at increased risk for the development of a vitreous hemorrhage secondary to a Valsalva maneuver; therefore, they always should try to limit activities that cause sudden increases in intrathoracic pressure against a closed glottis.

Patients should be advised to sleep in an upright sitting position to promote settling of the blood inferiorly out of the visual axis.



Avoid Valsalva-like maneuvers, if possible. 

To prevent a rebleed, physical activity should be limited immediately following detection until the retina has healed.

A medical workup, as suggested by the individual's history and physical examination, to look for predisposing factors, may be helpful in detecting underlying diseases or contributing causes that are preventable or treatable.


Long-Term Monitoring

Depending on the magnitude of the retinopathy, various follow-up schedules may be used accordingly.

Typically, for those patients who are being observed, follow-up care is at 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months following the initial incident. Wide variations in the timing and the frequency of follow-up care, depending on the location, the severity, and the underlying cause of the hemorrhage, are not uncommon.

For those patients who have undergone a laser membranotomy, follow-up care usually is arranged at 24 hours, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months. This schedule may vary depending on individual circumstances.

If the patient requires a pars plana vitrectomy, standard postoperative care is instituted.


Further Inpatient Care

Inpatient care may be required if indicated by the medical workup. [22]