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A Guide to the Most Common Types of Retinal Diseases

Almost 7.7 million Americans are impacted by diabetic retinopathy, and roughly 11 million Americans have some form of age-related macular degeneration. 

Both are two very common types of retinal diseases. 

By age 75, about half of Americans have cataracts, the clouding of the typically clear lenses of the eye.

Eye health is of the utmost importance. And it’s essential that if you notice any strange signs or symptoms, you seek medical attention. Many vitamins can help with eye health at any age, though the earlier you start, the better chance you have at keeping your eyes healthy, for longer.

How do you know if you have a retinal disease? Here we will go over the most common types and some of the signs and symptoms to look out for.

What Is Your Retina?

Retinal disorders and diseases affect the vital tissue that makes up your eyes. Some are serious enough to cause blindness, and many of them create blurred vision.

The retina is the thin layer of tissue that is located on the inside back wall of your eye. It contains millions of light-sensitive rods, cones, and other nerve cells that organize and receive visual information.

The information that your retina receives and organizes is sent to your brain through your optic nerve; this process enables you to see. 

Depending on the retinal disease or disorder, treatment can help to improve or restore your vision. It’s possible to slow the disease and preserve what sight you have left. But all of these treatments require medical attention, and if left untreated for too long, severe vision loss and blindness may occur.

What Are Some of the Symptoms?

Especially as you age, it’s essential to know what signs and symptoms indicate a possible retinal condition.

Many retinal diseases share the same signs and symptoms. Some of the more common ones to look out for are as follows:

  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Defects in your side vision
  • Seeing floating cobwebs or specks
  • Lost vision

To determine whether or not you have a retinal disease, a specialist will look in both eyes separately and perform a series of tests.

While floaters aren’t always harmful, if you begin to see them, it’s still a sign, you should see your doctor. And if you ever have reduced vision or flashes, you should seek medical attention as soon as you can.

What Is Macular Degeneration?

Retina problems affect many Americans, and some of the most common retinal problems affect millions. Here are some of the most significant ones.

Macular degeneration causes the center of your retina to begin deteriorating. It causes symptoms such as a blind spot in the center of your visual field or blurred vision in the center of your visual field.

There are two types of macular degeneration – wet and dry. Many people are affected with the dry type first, and then it progresses into the wet form in both eyes or one eye. With dry macular degeneration, the blood vessels in the eyes don’t leak. But as the disease progresses and blood vessels begin to grow abnormally, the condition can morph into the wet version.

What Is Diabetic Eye Disease?

When someone has diabetes, that disease can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye, which can then lead to diabetic eye disease or diabetic retinopathy.

The capillaries that are in the back of your eye can deteriorate and then leak fluid into and under the retina of your eye. As a result, the retina swells and your vision may blur or be distorted.

New and abnormal capillaries may develop, and those will break and bleed, which worsens your vision even more.

Fortunately, with close monitoring of blood sugar levels, blood lipids, and blood pressure, the severity of diabetic retinopathy is less.

Your doctor can treat it with laser photocoagulation, which seals off leaking blood vessels and destroys new growth. This procedure doesn’t cause pain because the retina doesn’t contain nerve endings. You can also treat it with intravitreal injections to deliver medicines inside your eye, close to the retina.

What Are Floaters?

If you ever notice spots or small squiggles in your vision, especially when your eyes are exposed to brighter lights, you have floaters. The eye is made of a jelly-like substance. When it becomes more liquid, small clumps will cast a shadow on the retina.

They occur as a result of nearsightedness or as a result of getting older. Some people have them at a young age, and they can be nothing to worry about.

Floaters can be indicative of something much more dangerous, like a torn retina. If a tear isn’t repaired, it often leads to a retinal detachment which will cause the retina to begin separating from the eye. If you haven’t been to the doctor since you’ve noticed floaters in your eyes, it’s of the utmost importance that you do so to rule out any chance of a torn retina, which can lead to retinal detachment.

What Is Retinal Detachment?

If you have floaters in your eye or eyes, you should visit your doctor to check for retinal detachment. Flashes in the eye are another indication that something is wrong. A decrease in vision or seeing a gray curtain are also signs.

When too much fluid accumulates behind the retina, it causes separation. Some of the risk factors that increase the chance of retinal detachment are:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Previous cataract surgery
  • Eye injury
  • The presence of additional eye disorders
  • Extreme nearsightedness
  • Previous retinal detachment in your other eye

If you notice ANY of the above-mentioned signs, call your doctor so that you have the chance to stop any further damage before it’s too late.

What Are Some Other Common Retinal Diseases?

A retinal tear occurs when the gel-like, clear substance in the center of your eye shrinks and pulls on your retina with enough force to cause a break in the tissue.

As a result, the retina swells, which may distort or blur your vision. If this happens, you can also develop new and abnormal blood vessels that break, bleed, and damage your vision further.

A macular hole occurs in the center of the retina in the back of your eye. This tiny defect may develop from abnormal traction between the vitreous and the retina. It may also follow an injury to the eye.

An epiretinal membrane is a delicate scar or layer that looks like crinkled cellophane that lies on top of your retina. The membrane pulls up on your retina, which distorts your vision as a result. Objects may appear crooked or blurry.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a medical term that refers to genetic conditions that can lead to retinal degeneration. As the rods and cones (cells) die, vision loss gradually occurs. 

Some examples of the conditions and diseases that are classified as retinitis pigmentosa are:

  • Usher syndrome
  • Bardet-Biedel syndrome
  • Rod-cone disease
  • Refsum disease
  • Leber’s congenital amaurosis

What You Should Know About Retinal Disease

Retinal diseases are the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness. While over a billion people in the world have some sort of vision impairment, 80% of those impairments are treatable. That’s why it’s so essential to seek medical attention if you notice any changes in your vision or your eyes.

There are many different options for treating these diseases, though, and different tests that the right doctor will perform to determine which one you may have.

Some people are more at risk than others, so it’s important that if you are at a higher risk of acquiring a retinal disease, you take the proper precautions to avoid them at all costs.

To prevent retinal disease, make sure that you do things like:

  • Schedule and attend regular eye exams
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Rest your eyes
  • Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays

Many Retinal Diseases are Preventable and Treatable

If you have a retinal disease, it doesn’t have to take over your life, especially if you catch it early.

Most retinal diseases are entirely preventable and even more are treatable. The most essential thing you can do is make regular visits to your eye doctor and report any sudden changes immediately.

The longer you wait, the chances of irreversible damage being done become higher.

And when you opt to see a retina specialist who uses the latest technology, you can rest assured you’ll be well taken care of.