The retina is a thin, light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of your eye that’s essential to your ability to see. It works much like film or an image sensor chip in a camera in that it receives an inverted image focused by the lens of your eye. In the case of eyesight, however, the visual images we take for granted emerge when the retina, triggered by light, passes nerve impulses via the optic nerve to your brain for processing. When you think about the role the retina plays in eyesight, it’s easy to understand the importance of early detection and treatment of retinal diseases.
Retinal Disease Symptoms
The retina can be affected by a variety of diseases that can impair vision or even cause blindness. Although the causes may vary, many retinal disorders have certain signs and symptoms in common. Here are some of the most common retinal disease symptoms:
- Blurry or distorted vision, including seeing straight lines as wavy
- Seeing specks, squiggly lines, or cobwebs that seem to float through your field of vision
- Flashes of light in one or both eyes
- Diminished central or peripheral vision
- Changes in color perception
- Difficulty seeing at night and visually adjusting to changing light levels
- A shadow or gray curtain covering part of your field of vision
If floaters or light flashes come on suddenly or you have abrupt vision loss, you should seek immediate medical attention because these could be warning signs of a potentially serious retinal condition.
Retinal Disease Risk Factors
Anyone can develop a retinal disorder, but people older than 50 and those who have diabetes face a higher risk, as does anyone with a family history of retinal diseases. Eye trauma, smoking, and obesity can also increase your risk for developing a retinal condition.
Common Retinal Conditions
The retina can be impaired in several different ways. Usually, the damage is due to aging, but it can be caused by an injury or various health conditions, including diabetes. Here’s a look at three of the most common types of retinal disease:
This retinal condition and a less-serious one known as a retinal hole can occur when the vitreous fluid—a clear, gel-like substance that fills much of the eye cavity—shrinks and pulls away from the retina. Vitreous degeneration is a natural result of the aging process, and it doesn’t always lead to a retinal disorder. In some cases, however, the vitreous gel pulls on the retinal tissue hard enough to tear it. A torn retina can allow fluid to seep in and cause retinal detachment, which can lead to permanent blindness.
When the retina is in its normal position, it’s nourished by an adjacent layer of blood vessels. A detached retina separates from this critical source of blood and oxygen, and the longer it goes untreated, the greater the risk of permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
There are three types of retinal detachment, all of which are medical emergencies:
- Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment – The most common way for a retina to become detached, this retinal condition results from a retinal tear or hole that allows fluid to build up behind the retina.
- Tractional retinal detachment – This retinal disorder is typically caused by diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes-related complication that damages blood vessels and causes retinal scarring. As the scars get bigger, they can pull on the retina and cause it to separate from the back of the eye.
- Exudative retinal detachment – This eye disorder results from fluid buildup behind the retina that’s unrelated to any kind of retinal tear or break. In this case, the detached retina may be caused by an injury, an eye tumor, age-related macular degeneration, or other health conditions that cause eye inflammation.
This type of retinal disease is caused by complications related to diabetes and uncontrolled blood sugar levels, which can lead to blood vessel damage in the retinal area.
Retinal Disease Treatment
Although some retinal disorders are more serious than others, any threat to the retina must be taken seriously. Treatment options vary according to the type and severity of the retinal condition, but regular checkups by an ophthalmologist are always advised. If you have a retinal disorder, your ophthalmologist might recommend periodic monitoring and ask you to be on the lookout for retinal disease symptoms. In more urgent situations, your eye doctor might recommend treatment options such as medication injections, photodynamic therapy, or a surgical procedure called vitrectomy. *In these cases, our ophthalmologist will refer you to a super specialists who treats only these Retina issues mentioned above and we will make sure you have the best care for your specific disease.
Florida Medical Clinic has a team of ophthalmologists with expertise in diagnosing and treating retinal diseases. We have locations in Land O’ Lakes, New Tampa, North Tampa, and Zephyrhills. Click here to request an appointment.
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