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What to know about retinal disorders

What to know about retinal disorders

THE retina is the innermost layer of the eye, and it features many light-sensitive photoreceptor cells. These cells detect light and convert it into electrical signals, which travel through the optic nerve to the brain, resulting in sight. Retinal disorders affect the retina and typically result in visual problems.

The human eye is a specialized organ that reacts to light and allows people to see. The eye has many structures that enable vision, including the retina.

Retinal disorders are conditions that affect any part of the retina. Some can mildly affect a person’s vision, while others may lead to blindness. However, it may be possible to prevent most retinal disorders if an eye doctor identifies the condition early and provides appropriate treatment.

If a person is experiencing problems with their retina, they may need to see an ophthalmologist. This is a medical professional who specializes in ophthalmology, or eye care.

In particular, a person may need to visit an eye doctor who specializes in conditions that affect the retina.

This specialty is known as vitreoretinal medicine. We look at some common retinal disorders and when to contact a doctor. We have a retinal tear.

This happens when there is a tear or hole in the retina. This typically occurs when the vitreous, which is a jelly-like substance in the eye, attaches to the retina and pulls hard enough to tear it.

This can happen when the vitreous detaches as part of the aging process, or it can result from trauma. Retinal tears can cause blurry vision, the sudden onset of floaters, or flashes of light. It is important for people to receive treatment for a retinal tear, as it may result in retinal detachment.

This is a more serious condition that affects vision. Another disorder is retinal detachment that occurs when a build-up of fluid, which usually enters through a retinal tear, causes the retina to detach from the choroid, which is the eye layer that provides it with oxygen and nutrients.

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency that, without treatment, may lead to permanent vision loss. Retinopathy is yet another disorder that results from damage to the blood vessels at the back of the eye, which causes fluid to leak. This accumulation of fluid can affect the retina and result in changes to vision.

Conditions that can cause retinopathy include diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes, with evidence suggesting that it is a leading cause and trusted source of blindness among adults in the United States.

Epiretinal membranes (ERMs), also called macular puckers or cellophane maculopathy, make up a thin layer that forms on the retina’s inner surface. It is usually scar tissue from a medical condition or injury.

ERMs often do not cause symptoms, except when they affect the macula or the center of the retina, which is important in perceiving visual details and features.

A person may notice distortion of their central vision. Similar to retinal tears, macular holesTrusted Source are small breaks in the macula that occur due to an unusual pulling between the vitreous and the retina.

Aging is the most common cause of macular holes. Eye injuries may also result in macular holes. Because macular degeneration is more common among older adults, eye doctors usually call it age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

With this condition, the macula deteriorates and causes distorted central vision, which may worsen over time and cause permanent vision loss.

One 2021 studyTrusted Source suggests that macular degeneration is the most common retinal disorder in the US. We have retinisis pigmentosa that is a rare genetic degenerative condition that causes a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina. This can cause a progressive loss of vision.

Etinoblastoma is a cancer of the retina, is the most common type of eye cancer in infants and young children.

According to the American Cancer Society, around 200–300 children in the U.S. receive a diagnosis of the condition every year.

A common symptom is the lack of red reflex in the pupil when the child is having a photo taken. Macular edema is also a disorder. It is a condition that occurs due to fluids building up in the macula, causing it to swell. Several conditions can cause macular edema, including AMD, diabetes, and retinal vein occlusion.

Retinal vein occlusion, or eye stroke, is a blood vessel disorder wherein branches of the retinal vein become occluded, causing fluid and blood to spill onto the retina.

The blockage cuts off circulation, which can cause nerve cells to die, leading to vision loss. Retinal disorders can share a number of similar symptoms, which may include seeing flashes of light, the sudden appearance of floaters, changes in vision, blurry vision or a loss of vision in some areas of the visual field, reduced central or side (peripheral) vision, a sudden loss of vision, changes in color perception, difficulty seeing at night and difficulty adjusting to light changes.

Many different factors may contribute to the development of retinal disorders. For example, one 2020 study highlights that increasing age, conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, and prior eye surgery can increase the risk of developing retinal problems.

Additionally, having a family history of retinal disorders can also increase a person’s likelihood of developing one.

The goals of treatment will be to preserve and restore vision or to prevent and slow down the damage in the retina. Treatment for retinal disorders varies depending on the type and extent of the condition.

Options may range from medications and vitamins to injections, surgery, and laser treatments. An individual’s eye specialist will discuss the most suitable treatment options for their condition.

● The author is a freelance content writer, a licensed occupational therapist, and a former university instructor, and she holds a Master of Education in Childhood Development and Education.

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