The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. Light rays focused onto the retina are converted into impulses that travel through the optic nerve to our brain. These impulses are interpreted as images.
Certain diseases and conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degneration, can damage the retina and lead to reduced vision.
Our team of eye surgeons and optometrists offer a variety of diagnostic and treatment options to help you avoid or reduce significant complications related to retinal diseases. If necessary, you may also be referred to one of the highly experienced doctors within our carefully selected network of retinal subspecialists.
What causes diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's ability to produce or use insulin effectively to control blood sugar levels. Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, is the result of damage to the small blood vessels located in the retina (the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye) caused by high blood sugar levels for an extended period of time. Damage to these blood vessels can lead to vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy is classified into two forms:
- Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the early state of the disease. Symptoms may include blurring but will be mild or non-existent in this form as the blood vessels in the retina are weakened. Weakened vessels may leak fluid into the retina, which may lead to swelling of the macula.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the more advanced form of the disease. At this stage, circulation problems deprive the retina of oxygen. New fragile blood vessels can then begin to grow in the retina and into the vitreous, the gel-like fluid that fills the back of the eye. The new blood vessel may leak blood into the vitreous, clouding vision. Other complications of PDR include detachment of the retina, due to scar tissue formation, and the development of glaucoma.
What are the symptoms?
You can have diabetic retinopathy and not be aware of it. The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often don't have symptoms.
However, noticeable symptoms may include:
- Seeing spots or floaters in your field of vision
- Blurred vision
- Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
- Difficulty seeing well at night
How is diabetic retinopathy diagnosed?
The only way to detect diabetic retinopathy and to monitor its progression is through a comprehensive eye exam. This is why it’s recommended that diabetics have at least one eye exam a year.
At Center for Total Eye Care, all of our doctors specialize in diagnosing eye diseases and conditions utilizing the latest, most advanced diagnostic technology.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is to prevent it through strict control of your blood sugar. This may significantly reduce the long-term risk of vision loss. However, laser treatment may help slow progression of vision loss and restore some clarity. This treatment usually won't cure diabetic retinopathy nor does it usually restore normal vision. Without treatment, diabetic retinopathy progresses steadily from minimal to severe stages.
What is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects more than 9.1 million Americans and continues to be the leading cause of severe visual impairment in the United States for people over age 65.
It occurs when the small central portion of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision, known as the macula, deteriorates with age.
There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration:
- The "dry" form of macular degeneration, the most common form, involves the appearance of yellow deposits (drusen) in the macula. A few small drusen may not cause changes in vision, but as they grow in size and number, they may lead to a dimming or distortion of vision that people find most noticeable when they read. In more advanced stages of dry macular degeneration, the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula become thinner leading to atrophy, or tissue death. In this advanced form of dry macular degeneration, patients may develop blind spots in the center of their vision. This can eventually lead to a loss of central vision, which is essential for driving, reading, and recognizing faces. The dry form of macular degeneration can lead to the wet form.
- The "wet" form of macular degeneration involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels from the choroid underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distortion of vision that makes straight lines look wavy, as well as blind spots and loss of central vision. These abnormal blood vessels and their bleeding eventually form a scar, leading to permanent loss of central vision.
What are the symptoms of AMD?
If you experience any of these symptoms, see an eye specialist as soon as possible:
- Dark, blurry areas in the center of vision
- Diminished or changed color perception
How is AMD diagnosed?
Early detection of age-related macular degeneration is very important because there are treatments that can delay or reduce the severity of the disease, which is why regular eye exams are so important.
At Center for Total Eye, our eye doctors offer a variety of diagnostic tests to check for AMD:
- Visual acuity test
- Dilated eye exam
- Amsler grid
- Fluorescein angiogram
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
How is AMD treated?
Injections and laser surgery are sometimes used to treat advanced forms of age-related macular degeneration.
Good Vision Supports Seniors' Health and Well Being
Healthy vision is essential to seniors' ability to enjoy a good quality of life. From maintaining the ability to read and drive to reducing the risk of injury from falls and other accidents, keeping eyes healthy into advanced age is crucial. After age 65, the Academy recommends eye exams every one to two years or as directed by an ophthalmologist.