Retinal Conditions and Treatment Options

The eye is the organ of sight and is best com­pared to a cam­era. Like a cam­era, the eye has many intri­cate parts which must work togeth­er to pro­duce clear vision. The reti­na, a lay­er of neur­al tis­sue that lines the back sur­face of the eye, func­tions like the film in a cam­era. To pro­duce a clear pic­ture, the film must be defect-free. Sim­i­lar­ly, for you to see clear­ly, your reti­na must be free of any prob­lems. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, many of us do not know we have reti­nal prob­lems until they impair our vision. The good news is that a dilat­ed eye exam per­formed by a reti­nal spe­cial­ist can iden­ti­fy these prob­lems ear­ly, treat if nec­es­sary and pre­vent irre­versible blind­ness.

Dia­bet­ic retinopa­thy is one con­di­tion we should all be aware of. It is the lead­ing cause of blind­ness in the Unit­ed States in patients 20 to 74 years of age. There are two forms of dia­bet­ic retinopa­thy Non-pro­lif­er­a­tive and Pro­lif­er­a­tive retinopa­thy. Non-pro­lif­er­a­tive retinopa­thy occurs when blood ves­sels leak and flu­id accu­mu­lates in the reti­na which can result in visu­al loss. Pro­lif­er­a­tive dia­bet­ic retinopa­thy results from ischemia which releas­es stim­u­lants for the growth or pro­lif­er­a­tion” of new blood ves­sels. These new ves­sels are frag­ile and can bleed into the eye. We can treat both of these con­di­tions quite effec­tive­ly now. In fact, here at DMG we are equipped with a cut­ting edge laser called the Pas­cal laser. When com­pared to tra­di­tion­al sin­gle-spot lasers, the Pas­cal allows us to con­trol the pre­ci­sion of laser treat­ment, improve safe­ty and effi­cien­cy, while opti­miz­ing your comfort.

Mac­u­lar degen­er­a­tion is anoth­er impor­tant reti­nal con­di­tion to under­stand. It is the lead­ing cause of blind­ness in the Unit­ed States. It usu­al­ly affects old­er patients, but it may be picked up ear­li­er, even in the 40’s and 50’s. This is impor­tant because if we iden­ti­fy it ear­ly, we can start you on nutri­tion­al sup­ple­ments and life-style changes that can great­ly decrease your risk of blind­ness. There are also two types of Mac­u­lar degen­er­a­tion, the dry form and the wet form. The dry form aris­es from the waste prod­ucts of vision that build up under­neath the reti­na over time. These prod­uct form yel­low mounds referred to as drusen. In some patients, abnor­mal blood ves­sels sprout from these areas of degen­er­at­ed reti­na. We refer to this con­di­tion as the wet form of mac­u­lar degen­er­a­tion, since these blood ves­sels can leak and bleed into the reti­na. How­ev­er, we now have an injectable med­ica­tion that has had unprece­dent­ed results in treat­ing this type of mac­u­lar degen­er­a­tion. If used prompt­ly, we can pre­vent vision loss in over 95% of our patients.

So what about those flash­es and floaters? Flash­es and new floaters may sig­nal a sight threat­en­ing event such as reti­nal tear or detach­ment so if you expe­ri­ence these symp­toms, a reti­nal spe­cial­ist at DMG will see you imme­di­ate­ly. As we age, the vit­re­ous gel, which fills our eye, begins to degen­er­ate into clumps of mate­r­i­al which float with­in the eye. As this is occur­ring, the gel will sep­a­rate from the reti­na and pull on it. This pull stim­u­lates the reti­na to per­ceive flash­ing lights. In some cas­es, the mechan­i­cal pull may be great enough to cause a reti­nal tear. Reti­nal spe­cial­ists can iden­ti­fy a tear, seal it with laser the same day and sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce the chance of a reti­nal detach­ment and blind­ness. So in sum­ma­ry, see your reti­nal spe­cial­ist ear­ly. It can go a long way in invest­ing in your future sight.

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