Ischemic optic neuropathy and retinal arterial occlusion are 2 forms of arterial occlusive disease affecting the eye. Reports in the literature suggest platelet hyperactivity in acute arterial occlusive diseases affecting other organ systems. Therefore, 14 patients with ischemic optic neuropathy and 17 patients with central or branch retinal artery occlusion were studied to determine whether platelets have a role in the pathogenesis of these vascular occlusive disorders. The results of the following investigations were no different in these patients compared with those in 18 control patients with non-vascular eye diseases: prothrombin times, partial thromboplastin times, plasma fibrinogen, factor V, factor VIII, platelet counts and threshold concentrations of ADP, epinephrine and collagen resulting in secondary platelet aggregation and serotonin release. In contrast, platelet coagulant activities concerned with the early stages of intrinsic coagulation were significantly increased in patients with retinal artery occlusion without hypertension or type IV hyperlipoproteinemia, but generally normal in patients with ischemic optic neuropathy and in patients with retinal artery occlusion associated with hypertension, type IV hyperlipoproteinemia, diabetes mellitus and generalized atherosclerosis. These results are consistent with a platelet contribution to retinal arterial occlusive disease in patients without other known contributing factors such as hypertension, serum lipid abnormalities, diabetes mellitus and generalized atherosclerosis and may have implications regarding prophylaxis.