What is the Retina?
The retina is the sensory membrane that lines the inner surface of the back of the eyeball. It’s composed of several layers, including one that contains specialized cells called photoreceptors.
There are two types of photoreceptor cells in the human eye— rods and cones. Rod photoreceptors detect motion and peripheral vision providing black-and-white vision in addition to functioning well in low light or at night time. Cones are responsible for central vision along with color vision and perform best in medium and bright light.
There are a wide variety of retina problems, conditions and diseases. Here is a short list of the more common retina problems:
Flashes and Floaters:
Flashes describe an occasional flash of light in the eye, and it is normal for people to see them from time to time. Flashes are caused by the vitreous, jelly-like fluid in the eye pulling on the retina at the back of the eye. When this pulling occurs, the person sees a flash. People who are aging or who have nearsightedness are more likely to see flashes than others. Flashes can also be signs of other conditions within the eye that need further care.
Floaters occur when people see dark pieces or threads floating in their eye. Floaters are generally harmless, and most people see them occasionally. Floaters are more common in older people. They can also be caused by eye surgery, or they can be a sign of other eye conditions that need treatment.
People should get an exam with an eye doctor if: they suddenly begin seeing many flashes or floaters, the flashes or floaters look different they used to look, or flashes or floaters make the person’s normal activities difficult. Regular eye exams can help people monitor flashes and floaters and keep their eyesight strong.
Macular degeneration is a disease that damages the macula, which controls detailed vision. The disease mostly affects adults over the age of 50, and early detection is the key to treating macular degeneration. Macular degeneration can be classified as either “wet” or “dry.” In the more common dry macular degeneration, vision changes may be difficult to notice in the disease’s early stages. Central vision worsens, wavy lines and black spots may appear in the middle of a person’s vision, and colors may look dimmer than normal. If someone loses vision from dry macular degeneration, that vision will not be able to be restored. Monitoring macular degeneration can help stop the disease from progressing to the more serious but less common wet macular degeneration.
Wet macular degeneration can cause rapid vision loss, and patients may see dark or blank spots, wavy lines, and dim colors centrally in their vision. If diagnosed early enough, laser treatment can be used to slow further loss of vision. Macular degeneration does not cause complete vision loss. Regular appointments with an eye doctor are important for diagnosing and monitoring the disease. People can also monitor their vision using an Amsler grid, as directed by their eye doctor.
When the blood sugar in a person’s eyes gets too high, it can cause damage to the eye’s blood vessels. These damaged vessels can leak fluid or blood, causing the retina to swell and form deposits called exudates. Diabetic Retinopathy can take a couple of forms. Non-proliferative or background retinopathy describes an early form of the disease, and it may not produce any change in vision.
In proliferative retinopathy, other diseases of the eye can develop, such as macular edema, neovascularization, and retinal detachment. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can include gradually blurred, spotty, or hazy vision or no vision, but many times, patients do not experience any symptoms. Regular dilated eye exams with an optometrist or an ophthalmologist can diagnose diabetic retinopathy, and the doctor can provide care to treat and possibly prevent vision loss if caught early enough.
Retinal detachment occurs when the inner lining of the eye, called the retina, begins to peel away from its wall. Detachment can occur when the jelly-like substance inside the eye begins to liquify at the top, which can then cause debris to collect at the place where the solid and liquid join.
When this occurs, people see cobweb-like floaters in their eyes. The liquid can also begin to pull on the retina, which can cause you to see flashes of light. This fluid sometimes causes a hole to develop in the retina, which allows the liquid to seep through and peel the retina away from the wall. If holes in the retina are found early, they can be closed with laser treatment. If detachment has begun, more serious treatments may be necessary.
Central Retinal Vein Occlusion
Central Vein Occlusion describes the condition when a central vein in the retina, the back of the eye, develops a clot. One primary vein drains all the blood from the retina, and this vein shares a common wall with a central retinal artery, so the vein can become blocked because of diseases in the artery next to it. Hardening of the arteries, called arteriosclerosis, is the most common cause of central vein occlusion, though other diseases can also lead to the disease.
When the central vein closes, a sudden loss of vision often results. With time, the vision may improve. Though no effective treatment for this condition has been found, an ophthalmologist can determine the cause and monitor the patient. Early detection is key for treating the symptoms of central vein occlusions, and effective treatment may be able to maintain a patient’s vision and prevent further vision loss.
Branch Vein Occlusions:
Branch Vein Occlusions is a disease where the small blood vessels in the back of the eye, called the retina, become blocked. When a clot occurs in a small branch vein of the retina, it can cause swelling, hemorrhages, and a loss of function in that area of the retina. Branch vein occlusions can also cause blurriness of vision.
While some patients recover from branch vein occlusions with normal vision and little sign of the disease, many patients have visual problems that persist. Other diseases, such as macular edema and neovascularization can result from branch vein occlusions, so it is important to see an eye doctor for treatment options. Branch vein occlusions often resolve themselves over time, but others require more doctor intervention.
Uveitis is inflammation that happens in the uvea, the middle layer that covers the eyeball. The uvea is bordered by the sclera on the outside and the retina on the inside, and it contains blood vessels to sustain the eye. If inflammation occurs in your uvea, it can threaten your sight. Its symptoms include blurred vision, pain and redness in the eye, and sensitivity to light. Uveitis can occur in three different area of the uvea. Iritis describes uveitis in the front of the eye, called the iris. Cyclitis describes inflammation in middle area of the uvea, called the ciliary body, and choroiditis affects the back of the uvea, called the choroids. The cause of uveitis is generally not known, and it can be linked to any number of causes. To minimize vision loss, quick diagnosis and treatment by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist is important. Depending on the patient’s individual case, treatments can vary.
Importance of Routine Eye Exams
It’s essential to keep your retina functioning properly to enjoy a lifetime of good eyesight. Many retina problems can be detected by your eye doctor before you notice any significant symptoms.
Routine eye exams enable your eye doctor to examine your eyes for signs of macular degeneration and other serious retina problems so treatment can begin as soon as possible.
*If the condition warrants further treatment, our Ophthalmologists will discuss these treatment options that may include lasers and targeted injection therapies to manage your condition. You can feel comfortable in the hands of our gifted surgeons at Solinsky EyeCare whom utilize lasers and specific injectable therapies for a variety of conditions including glaucoma, vein occlusions, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal holes and detachments, as well as other conditions. Laser technology continues to be researched to develop more effective treatments for patients.