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Retina

The retina is a thin membrane located at the back of the eye that contains photoreceptor cells.

These cells send impulses to your brain when light passes through your eye. This is necessary for light to be processed into images the brain can see.

When the retina becomes damaged, it causes patches of vision loss. These happen when the retina is damaged.

If vision loss from retinal damage occurs, it’s irreversible. That’s why regular eye exams are so important! The ophthalmologists at Colorado Eye Consultants can treat a wide range of retina conditions.

The retina can become damaged because of several conditions. Many of the conditions that can damage the retina occur because of aging. These are the most common retinal conditions:

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD):

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) occurs when the center of the retina, called the macula, suffers damage over time.

When this happens, it can cause blurry areas in the center of your vision. In the early stages, a patient may not show any symptoms.

But you can see this damage during a retinal exam. This is a stage called dry AMD.

Dry AMD is the most common type of AMD and accounts for about 80-90% of cases. The next type of AMD is wet AMD.

Wet AMD occurs when the damage to the retina becomes more extensive. This is often because of blood vessels in the retina swelling and leaking.

There is no cure for AMD, however, there are treatment options for wet AMD to prevent further vision loss.

Diabetic Retinopathy:

Diabetes is a disease that profoundly affects many areas of your body, including your eyes. It increases your risk for eye conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts. The primary concern for eye health in people with diabetes is the development of diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that develops when the blood vessels in your retina become damaged. The retina is the light-sensitive portion of the back of your eye. As the damage worsens, you may begin losing your vision. Your eyesight may become blurry, less intense, and begin to disappear.

This condition can affect people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you live with diabetes, the more likely you are to develop complications like diabetic retinopathy. This is why adopting lifestyle changes and learning to manage diabetes is so important.

The buildup of excess sugar in your blood can lead to a number of health issues. In your eyes, too much glucose can damage the tiny vessels that supply blood to your retina. Over time, this damage may block your blood flow.

Chronic damage to retinal blood vessels affects your vision. When your blood flow is diminished, your eye attempts to fix the situation by growing new blood vessels. The process of growing new blood vessels is called neovascularization. These vessels aren’t as effective or as strong as the original ones. They may leak or rupture, which can negatively impact your vision.

Like AMD, diabetic retinopathy has no cure, but it is manageable.

It is important for patients with diabetes, to have annual eye exams to ensure optimal eye health is maintained.

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Uveitis

Uveitis is inflammation inside your eye. Inflammation usually happens when your immune system is fighting an infection. Sometimes uveitis means your immune system is fighting an eye infection — but it can also happen when your immune system attacks healthy tissue in your eyes.

Uveitis symptoms can come on suddenly and get worse quickly. It can be serious and lead to permanent vision loss if not treated in its early stage.

Symptoms include eye redness, eye pain, light sensitivity, blurred or decreased vision, and floaters. Occasionally, there are no symptoms and is diagnosed during a routine exam.

Having annual eye exams is important to detect any early signs of retinal disease so that it can be treated before a patient experiences a loss of vision.

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Retinal Tear/Detachment:

Anyone can experience a retinal tear or detachment.

With a retinal detachment, the vitreous gel separates from the retina. The vitreous is the fluid that fills the eye.

When it separates from the retina, it causes a tear. Blood and fluid can leak through the tear.

This results in swelling and full detachment from the retina. The more severe the detachment, the more severe the symptoms.

These can include seeing floaters, flashing lights, and shadows in your peripheral vision. If you experience these symptoms, see your eye doctor right away. A retinal detachment needs prompt treatment to reattach the retina and minimize a loss of vision.

How Do You Prevent Retinal Diseases?

There’s no way to guarantee the prevention of retinal diseases. But there are certain factors that put you at risk that you can avoid. These include:

The best way to reduce your risk of developing retinal diseases is to lead a healthy lifestyle. This means, at a bare minimum, don’t smoke, get plenty of exercises, and eat healthily.

Other risk factors, like family history and aging, aren’t something you can avoid. But if you know you’re at risk, you can still take control of your eye health by having frequent eye exams.

If you do have any retinal diseases or conditions, this will allow you to have them diagnosed early on. Early diagnosis means early treatment, which means you may be able to avoid vision loss.

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How Do You Treat Retinal Diseases?

For most retinal diseases, treating them involves minimizing the swelling and leaking of blood vessels. This can be done with medications, either through corticosteroids or intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF medication or with laser treatment.

Intravitreal injections are used to administer medications to treat a variety of retinal conditions. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vein occlusion are the most common conditions treated with intravitreal anti-VEGF drugs. Intravitreal steroids are used in some eyes with diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, and uveitis. The anti-VEGF drugs and steroids help to reduce fluid leakage associated with these disorders. Antibiotic, anti-fungal, and antiviral drugs are also used to treat patients with infections in the eye such as endophthalmitis and retinitis.

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Laser therapy can also stop blood vessels from leaking. This is either by sealing them shut or breaking them down. To break them down, a light-sensitive medication will be injected into your bloodstream.

There are different laser therapy techniques your eye doctor at Colorado Eye Consultants may use. Which laser therapy technique they use depends on the cause and severity of your retinal damage.

Your doctor will be able to recommend treatments that are right for you. This may be a combination of medication and laser therapy.

Have more questions about the retina or searching for a treatment solution? 

Schedule an appointment at Colorado Eye Consultants in Littleton, CO to learn more!

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