Retinal disease is highly prevalent among older individuals, and both age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy account for more than half the irreversible blindness in older Asian. Retinal diseases primarily affect the back portion of the eye and are serious conditions.
Common Retinal Diseases
While there are a number of possible problems with the retina, the most common conditions are:
Retinal Detachment - One of the most serious conditions, the retina physically detaches from the back of the eye. If left unattended, it can cause permanent vision loss.
Diabetic Retinopathy - This condition occurs when the tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye are damaged as a result of diabetes. Retinopathy can also occur as a direct result of high blood pressure.
Epiretinal Membrane - Sometimes called macular pucker, this condition occurs when a membrane forms over the macula, causing blurred vision. It can be a symptom of other retinal diseases or a problem in and of itself.
Macular Hole - Responsible for your central vision, when a hole forms in the macula, serious vision problems can occur.
Macular Degeneration - Often the result of aging, this is a group of retinal problems that are characterized by dead or dying macular cells. In the more severe form of this disease, abnormal blood vessels grow in the macula and may bleed.
Cone-Rod Dystrophy - As the cones and/or rods in the retina deteriorate, vision problems begin to become apparent.
While your specific treatment may vary depending on both your condition and prognosis, the overall goal of most treatment plans is to slow the progression of the disease and keep as much vision as is possible. Unfortunately, with most retinal diseases, the damage that has already been done cannot be reversed.
Here are just a few of the most typical treatment approaches:
Pharmacological Options - As research advances for each condition, new drugs are available to patients. In some cases, eyedrops are prescribed as the main treatment, and in other situations, an injectible form of the drug may be administered to the eye.
Photocoagulation - The goal of this surgical procedure is to create burns in the retina with the help of a laser. In the case of a tear, this procedure helps to create scar tissue that will bind the retina with the underlying tissue. In the case of retinopathy, it can help to seal blood vessels and stop leakage. While it can cause peripheral vision loss, most surgeons can help preserve central vision.
Cryopexy - Often used in cases where detachment has become a serious concern, the process with this treatment method involves freezing the area around the hole or tear in order to create binding scar tissue.
Pneumatic retinopexy - Should detachment actually occur, this is the procedure most doctors will recommend. Cryopexy is the first step in the procedure, as it helps to seal the hole. Then a gas filled bubble is injected. It expands for about seventy-two hours, pushing against the back of the eye, forcing the retina to reattach.
Scleral buckling - Also commonly used to assist doctors when detachment has occurred, the doctor literally sews a substance like silicone to the wall of the eye which closes the tear.