Retinal Diseases Diagnosis and Co-Management
The expert doctors at Walter Eye Clinic utilize advanced technology (link to OCT in technology section) to diagnose retinal diseases, many of which have no obvious symptoms in the early stages. Regular comprehensive eye exams are the best way to uncover retinal disease in the early stages.
What are Retinal Diseases?
The retina is a thin, light-sensitive tissue that lines the inner surface of the back part of the eye and is located near the optic nerve. There are several different parts associated with the retina, including rods, cones, the macula, and fovea. The retina senses light and sends signals to the brain, which enables you to see.
Retinal diseases are eye diseases which damage any part of the retina. If retinal diseases are left untreated, they can lead to vision loss and even blindness. If some retinal diseases are diagnosed during the early stages, they can be treated or controlled to preserve vision. There are a wide variety of retina diseases and conditions.
Common Retinal Diseases
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes, and can cause vision loss or even blindness in diabetics. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar which damages tiny blood vessels that go to the retina, causing them leak fluid or bleed, and prompting the growth of new blood vessels which don’t work well.
Diabetic retinopathy can lead to diabetic macular edema, which is when the damaged blood vessels leak fluid into the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision (seeing things directly in front of you), and it can also lead to neovascular glaucoma, which is when abnormal blood vessels grow out of the retina and block fluids from draining out the eye.
There are little to no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy in the early stages. In the latter stages of the disease, people can experience blurry vision, floating spots in their vision, and blindness.
Proper management of diabetes is the best way to lower your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. All diabetics should have comprehensive eye exams on a regular basis, sometimes as often as every two to four months. If you have diabetes, the doctors at Walter Eye Clinic will recommend a schedule for comprehensive eye exams for your needs.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common and serious age-related disease which affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision. It is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age 50. Macular degeneration can happen earlier in life, but age is easily the biggest risk factor. A few others include race and genetics.
For people who have AMD, vision loss occurs as the macula deteriorates over time. The macula is the part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision, AMD can make it difficult or impossible to do daily tasks like reading, writing, and driving.
AMD often goes undetected for a long time because it is painless and the negative effects on vision take a while to manifest. Over time, however, blurry patches or dark spots will begin to appear in the central vision. Objects may also appear less bright than they used to, or they may seem warped.
AMD cases fall into two main categories: wet and dry. The most common form is dry macular degeneration, accounting for up to 90 percent of people with the condition. Dry AMD happens when the tissues of the macula grow thinner over time, accompanied by fatty deposits of drusen in the retina.
The remaining 10 percent of AMD cases will progress to the more dangerous form: wet AMD. This occurs when new blood vessels grow under the retina to strengthen the blood supply. However, these new vessels are unstable and can leak fluid and scar the macula, resulting in faster and worse vision loss.
An epiretinal membrane is a condition where a thin layer of scar tissue forms on macula, which is the portion of the retina responsible for central vision. When an epiretinal membrane forms on the macula, it can cause distorted or blurry vision. Epiretinal membrane can be caused by normal age-related changes in the eye, but it can also be a complication of diabetes, retinal tears, inflammation, or previous eye surgeries.
A retinal tear is a serious problem which occurs when the retina has a small hole or tear in it. With a retinal tear, you may see flashes of light or a sudden increase in the number of eye floaters. If you have a retinal tear, fluid may leak into the hole and cause a retinal detachment. A retinal tear is an eye emergency which must be treated right away to prevent vision loss.
A retinal detachment is when the retina lifts away from the back of the eye. The retina doesn’t work if it isn’t attached. Signs of retinal detachment include suddenly seeing flashing lights, a rapid increase in the number of eye floaters, and a gray curtain appearing in your field of vision. A retinal detachment is an eye emergency and requires surgery to repair it to prevent vision loss.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of eye problems which affect the retina by changing the way the retina responds to light, which can make it hard to see. Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic condition and can cause vision loss over time. Vision loss for people with retinitis pigmentosa can mean loss of night vision, or the ability to see at night, problems with seeing colors, loss of central vision, and loss of peripheral vision.
Book an Appointment for a Comprehensive Eye Exam
At Walter Eye Clinic, our doctors use advanced technology to provide a retinal exam, which enables them to spot signs of retinal diseases, even in the early stages when you may not notice any symptoms. We are experts in diagnosing and managing a wide range of retina problems, such as diabetic eye disease and macular degeneration. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.