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The retina is a layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye. The retina senses light and sends images to your brain. At the center of the retina is an area called the macula. The macula is responsible for the sharp, central vision needed for reading, driving and seeing fine detail.
Retinal diseases vary widely — some are common and easily remedied, while others are rare and more difficult to diagnose and treat.
Common retinal diseases and conditions include:
- Retinal tear. A retinal tear occurs when the clear, gel-like substance in the center of your eye (vitreous) shrinks and tugs on the thin layer of tissue lining the back of your eye (retina) with enough traction to cause a break in the tissue. It's often accompanied by the sudden onset of symptoms such as floaters and flashing lights.
- Retinal detachment. A retinal detachment is defined by the presence of fluid under the retina. This usually occurs when fluid passes through a retinal tear, causing the retina to lift away from the underlying tissue layers.
- Diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the back of your eye can deteriorate and leak fluid into and under the retina. This causes the retina to swell, which may blur or distort your vision. Or you may develop new, abnormal capillaries that break and bleed. This also worsens your vision. For more diabetic retinopathy, click HERE.
- Epiretinal membrane. The epiretinal membrane is a delicate tissue-like scar or membrane that looks like crinkled cellophane lying on top of the retina. This membrane pulls up on the retina, which distorts your vision. Objects may appear blurred or crooked.
- Macular hole. A macular hole is a small defect in the center of the retina at the back of your eye (macula). The hole may develop from abnormal traction between the retina and the vitreous, or it may follow an injury to the eye.
- Macular degeneration. In macular degeneration, the center of your retina begins to deteriorate. This causes symptoms such as blurred central vision or a blind spot in the center of the visual field. There are two types — wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration. Many people will first have the dry form, which can progress to the wet form in one or both eyes.
- Retinitis pigmentosa. Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited degenerative disease. It slowly affects the retina and causes loss of night and side vision.
Our Ophthalmologists here at Clarus Eye Centre are skilled in differentiating the diseases. They help patients to understand their diagnosis to (‘help’ instead of ‘more effectively’) design a treatment plan specifically for them. Planning and treating diseases early will help slow or stop the progression and preserve as much vision as possible. A routine eye exam can indicate the presence of retinal diseases. Schedule your exam today and stay proactive with your eye health.
FLOATERS, FLASHES & RETINAL DETACHMENT
Floaters are commonly described as shadows or dark objects that “float” across your field of vision. They may appear as dark specks, strings or cobwebs that float through the eye. Floaters block light to the retina which in turn produces the shadowing effect.
Floaters are usually caused by changes in the vitreous gel, which is a substance that fills the center of the eye. When the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina, it may create images that look like flashing lights or lightning streaks. The flashes of light may persist on and off for several weeks or months. A sudden onset of light flashes accompanied by new floaters can indicate something more serious such as a torn retina, requiring immediate medical attention. As we grow older, it’s more common to experience flashes and floaters since the vitreous gel changes with age.
If you’ve previously noticed floaters and they have not changed or worsened it may not be (delete second ‘not’) serious. However, the sudden appearance of floaters accompanied by a decrease in vision may signal a more serious medical condition and you should contact your ophthalmologist right away.