One of the most common causes for loss of central vision in individuals over the age of 45 is macular degeneration. This age-related condition affects the retina. The retina is a layer of nerve cells that line the back wall of your eye sensing light and sending signals to your brain.
Common Retina Diseases
Some of the most common eye conditions affecting the retina include:
- Diabetic retinopathy – Diabetes causes serious damage to blood vessels and often leads to blood vessels rupturing in the retina. When the retina begins to lose enough blood that it can’t stay healthy, your body will try to grow new blood vessels on the retina to replace the ruptured vessels. This is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy and is likely to result in impaired vision or vision loss.
- Macular degeneration – This relatively common condition is a loss of central vision, which results in blurry vision when a person looks directly at an object. It is related to aging, but does have a hereditary tendency. It is a deterioration of the macula, which is the small central portion of the retina responsible for central vision.
- Retinal tears and detachment – As we age, sometimes the vitreous (which is the clear gel in the middle of the eye) will shrink or move away from the retina. This shrinking can pull hard enough to tear the retina in one or more places, which can allow fluid to pass through the tear and lead to a retinal detachment. A detached retina is a serious issue that requires surgical treatment to restore function and prevent blindness.
Common symptoms of retina related eye conditions
The three most common symptoms of retina conditions are floaters, flashes, and blurry or distorted vision.
Floaters are small clumps or strands of tissue that form in the vitreous gel, which is the fluid that fills the inside of the eye, and are seen as shadows by the retina. These manifest as specks that you may see moving in your field of vision and are frequently visible when looking at a plain background, such as a blank wall or blue sky.
Flashes are caused by the pulling or tugging of the vitreous gel on the retina. Similar to the sensation that sometimes occurs when one is hit in the eye and sees “stars,” this pulling or tugging separates the vitreous gel from the retina causing flashes of light to appear intermittently for several weeks.
The appearance of floaters and flashes may be alarming, especially if they develop suddenly. They are often associated with aging but can be a symptom of a retinal tear or detachment, which can lead to significant vision loss. Likewise, feeling like someone has pulled a shade or shadow over part of your vision can be a symptom of a retinal detachment. Any of these symptoms needs to be evaluated with a comprehensive dilated examination within a day or two of symptom onset.
Blurry or distorted vision are also significant signs you may have developed a detached retina. When the retina becomes detached it will no longer function and this leads to blurry or distorted vision and eventually blindness if the condition is not treated.
Diagnosis and treatment of retina related eye conditions
Any sudden onset of numerous new floaters or flashes, which are warning signs of ocular disease, should be evaluated by your eye care professional to determine whether these floaters or flashes are serious. In order to ensure your condition is properly diagnosed, it is important that a complete eye examination is performed. The exam will allow your doctor to fully understand and diagnose your condition as well as potentially catch some conditions in the early stages before symptoms develop. Depending on the results of your exam, our skilled eye doctors can also provide you with recommendations for treatments and a recommended treatment schedule.