Throughout 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 Flashes
Floaters 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 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.
The 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.
The 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.
When 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
If you experience any of these, seek treatment immediately.
Treating retinal issues depends on two variables. How severe your condition is and whether it’s impacting your vision.
These factors will determine the treatment used on your eye. A comprehensive exam is necessary to decide on the proper treatment.
How to Treat Floaters
Floaters may be annoying, but they’re not serious. They are only a concern if they are dense or large in number.
If necessary, surgery can get rid of floaters by removing the vitreous. But, that’s significant eye surgery and typically discouraged. Your brain is adept at ignoring floaters after you have them for a bit of time.
How Do You Treat Diabetic Retinopathy?
The stage of your diabetic retinopathy guides your treatment. Early on, it’s best to control blood sugar.
More advanced cases require intervention. Laser treatments, eye injections, and surgery are all options.
How Do You Treat Macular Degeneration?
Early diagnosis can slow macular degeneration. Regular eye exams are the best way to prevent vision loss from macular degeneration.
Once it gets damaged, there is no way to restore your vision. But early diagnosis can prevent it from developing that far.
How to Treat Retinal Tears
All retinal tear treatments are outpatient procedures. One option is to create a scar around the edge of the hole or tear. This scarring prevents fluid from getting under your retina.
Another option is cryopexy, which uses a cold instrument to freeze the damaged area. Or you can get a laser retinopexy.
This procedure is where a laser creates a tiny scar to prevent leaking and detachment. Regardless of the treatment, the goal is to keep your retina attached to the back wall of your eye.
How Do You Treat a Retinal Detachment?
Three types of surgery can fix a detached retina. One called a pneumatic retinopexy injects a gas bubble into your vitreous. This bubble places gentle pressure against the damaged area to aid reattachment.
Another procedure, called a scleral buckle, places a silicone band around the eye to heal tears. The third procedure, called a vitrectomy, removes the vitreous and replaces it with a gas bubble. Preventing or slowing vision loss is always the goal.