Retina CareThroughout your life, your vision will continually change. Understanding how your eye works will help you protect and preserve your sight. Keeping your retina healthy and functioning is critical to maintaining clear eyesight. Without your retina, light cannot reach your brain, and you cannot see. Various common eye conditions can affect your retina. Being aware of them will help you protect yours. Awareness, and the guidance of the ophthalmologists at Eyecare Medical Group, can help keep your retinas healthy.
How Does Your Eye Function?The retina is a light-sensitive sheet made of nerve cells that covers the back inner wall of your eye. There are two different types of cells in your retina, called rods and cones, that sense different types of light. Your cornea and lens focus light onto your retina. It then converts the light into electrical signals that get sent along the optic nerve to your brain. Diseases of the retina develop over time. It’s a natural part of aging. But, some are more serious and can lead to vision loss. Specific problems with your retina may need surgical repair.
What Are The Most Common Retinal Conditions?Some retina problems are nothing to worry about. Others are early symptoms of more severe conditions. These are the most common conditions that affect your retinas and vision:
- Floaters and flashes
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Macular degeneration
- Retinal tear
- Retinal detachment
Floaters and FlashesFloaters are a common eye condition. They can look like a dust speck, a blurry comma, or a spidery squiggle moving across your vision. When you try to focus on them, they slide away from your gaze. Floaters are shadows cast by clumps of microscopic fibers in your vitreous as you age. Sometimes flashes of light can appear at the same time as floaters. One or two flashes and floaters are nothing to worry about, although they can be annoying. If you have a rapid onset of many flashes or floaters, you may be having a medical emergency. Contact your eye doctor immediately if this occurs.
Diabetic RetinopathyDiabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the retina. The back of your eye is full of tiny thin-walled blood vessels called capillaries. These capillaries can swell and break because of high blood sugar, which can cause fluid or blood to leak into your vitreous. This leaking can impair your vision. It also reduces blood supply to the retina. The result is blurriness and vision loss. In some cases, new blood vessels grow as old ones break. These new vessels are weak and continue to leak fluid into your eye. Untreated diabetic retinopathy can lead to vision loss. That’s why it’s crucial to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam once a year. That way, your optometrist can spot problems early. Early treatment is essential when treating diabetic retinopathy.
Macular DegenerationThe macula is the central part of the retina and controls sharp straight-ahead vision. Macular degeneration is a breakdown of the macula. Macular degeneration occurs as a result of your macula getting thinner. This thinning is most common and is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. It is often called age-related macular degeneration or ARMD for this reason. It has two forms, dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. Both types can cause the center of your field of vision to be blurry or even a blind spot in your central vision. The dry form is much more common and results from the macula thinning. Wet macular degeneration is when fluid leaks under your macula, causing vision distortions. The wet form is much more severe. Macular degeneration gets diagnosed during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. A test called optical coherence tomography (OCT) also can diagnose macular degeneration.
Retinal TearThe retina can develop a small hole or tear as the result of an eye injury or trauma. This situation can lead to further complications. A retinal tear can allow fluid to enter beneath the retina, build up, and cause a retinal detachment. The risk of a retinal tear increases with age. It can also occur after eye surgery. Extreme myopia or nearsightedness is another risk factor for retinal tears. An increase of floaters can be a sign of a retinal tear. Early treatment can prevent it from getting worse and causing a retinal detachment.
Retinal DetachmentWhen your retina pulls away from its normal position at the back of your eye, you have a retinal detachment. Retinal detachments are a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. They can result in permanent vision loss or blindness. Three things that could be a sign of a detached retina are:
- The sudden appearance of a lot of floaters across your vision
- Flashes of light in one or both eyes
- Dark shadow or curtain in your field of vision