Retinal Conditions

Retinal ConditionsThe retina is the movie theater screen that images are projected onto; this paper-thin tissue lines the back of the eye and sends visual signals to the brain. In the middle of the retina is a highly specialized area called the macula. The macula is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that collectively produce central vision.

Common retinal eye conditions that may develop as a result of age are Diabetic Retinopathy and Macular Degeneration. Early detection and proper management of these conditions are key to preventing vision loss. Our doctors treat and manage ocular complications of diabetes, age-related macular degeneration, retinal detachments, and ocular inflammatory diseases. Our expert team at Arlington Eye Center works closely with our patients to customize treatment to get the best possible results.

Macular Degeneration


Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 60. Commonly referred to as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), it is a condition that results as part of the natural aging process. Degeneration or deterioration of the macula (the very center of the retina) occurs, causing your central vision to become blurry, dark, or distorted. Damage to your central vision can affect your ability to see near and far, and can make some activities – like reading and driving – difficult or impossible.

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The first signs of AMD may be the appearance of spots in your vision, called drusen. You may also notice distortion in straight lines, or a difference in the appearance of colors from one eye to the other. If you notice a change in vision, see your doctor promptly for an evaluation. Early detection and proper management are key to preventing vision loss.

“Dry” AMD

Ninety percent of all people with AMD suffer from the Dry form. Drusen spots on the macula that are present for a long time may cause a thinning of the tissues of the macula and create atrophy causing a slow progression of vision loss. Symptoms of Dry AMD typically advance slowly, and may be hardly noticeable. However, if you have Dry AMD, it can change to Wet AMD which is more severe. Therefore, it is essential to monitor your vision daily and report any change.

“Wet” AMD

The “wet” form accounts for about ten percent of all AMD cases. As dry AMD worsens, abnormal blood vessels form under the macula and allow fluid and blood to leak causing damage to the overlying retinal tissue, and can lead to rapid and severe loss of central vision. If diagnosed early, treatments are available which can seal the vessels and slow or restore vision loss.

Treatments

Although there are currently no cures for macular degeneration, there are several treatments which can help to reduce the impacts of AMD and maintain vision for some people.

Nutritional Supplements – such as high dose combinations of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and zinc.


Flashes and Floaters

Flashes are brief sensations or the appearance of bright lights at the edge of vision caused by tension between the vitreous gel and the retina. As the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina, the retina becomes stimulated, sending signals to the brain that are interpreted as flashes of light. As we age, it is more common to experience flashes. However, if you notice the sudden appearance of light flashes you should see your ophthalmologist immediately.

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As we age, the vitreous gel thickens and pulls away from the retina, causing floaters that appear like small specs or clouds moving in front of your vision. They are actually small clumps of cells, pigments, or gel matrix that float inside the vitreous of the eye which cast shadows on the retina, and tend to move when you try to look at them. This can sometimes cause a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters.

Generally, floaters are not treated and will settle out of vision within weeks or months. Those that do not clear, or are caused by hemorrhage, may be removed surgically. If you experience a sudden new or more noticeable floater, contact your doctor right away as this may be an indication of a more serious problem.

Diabetic Retinopathy


What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition caused by diabetes where high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels throughout the body, including the fine vessels of the retina. There are two types; Nonproliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR) and Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR).

What are the different types of Diabetic Retinopathy?

Nonproliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR) is an early stage, milder form of eye disease which usually does not affect vision. This condition occurs when the retinal blood vessels begin to leak allowing blood to seep into the retina. This can cause the retina to swell and function improperly. Treatment is available through the use of a laser to seal the blood vessels and prevent further vision loss.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR), on the other hand, represents more advanced disease and can cause severe loss of central and peripheral vision. This condition occurs when the retinal blood vessels close restricting the nutrients to the retinal tissue. This growth of new abnormal blood vessels can create scar tissue which can result in blindness if not treated.

Strict control of blood-sugar levels can prevent or delay the onset of vision problems. Those who develop vision-threatening complications such as macular edema (swelling), PDR and neovascular glaucoma can be treated with laser surgery. Some patients may need multiple laser treatments over time.

In advanced PDR, your Arlington Eye Center doctor may recommend a vitrectomy. Vitrectomy is the removal of abnormal gel in the back part of the eye to control abnormal blood vessels. The earlier this surgery is performed, the better the chances of saving your vision or preventing more serious vision loss.


More Serious Conditions

Flashes and floaters are considered a normal consequence of aging, and tend to become less noticeable with time. However, patients should always be examined at the onset of these symptoms, as they can be a warning sign of more serious conditions, such as posterior vitreous detachment, retinal tear, or retinal detachment.

Posterior vitreous detachment patients may:

If you are having any significant changes in your vision, contact Arlington Eye Associates immediately.


Advanced Diagnostics

In addition, we offer the latest, most advanced diagnostic and laser treatment technology. This includes optical coherence tomography for diagnosing macular edema and digital fluorescein angiography, an imaging system that allows us to carefully analyze and treat diabetic retinopathy.


Other Retinal Conditions

You can learn more about retinal conditions by visiting our videos page.