The light-sensitive tissue lining of the back interior of the eye is called the retina. The retina performs the essential task of transforming light into the brain signals that become the images we see. As a result, its proper functioning is vital to a person’s vision.
Common Retinal Conditions
Healthy retinas provide quality vision while unhealthy or damaged retinas often result in severe or long-lasting vision problems and can lead to total vision loss.
Common retinal conditions include:
- Retinal tear & detachment – A retinal tear occurs when the vitreous pulls hard enough against the retina to lift it from the back of the eye. Think of it like a section of wallpaper or tape peeling from a wall. When the retina “peels” from the eye, vision is tremendously compromised, causing blurriness and other complications. Retinal tears and detachment may lead to permanent blindness if not treated surgically.
- Diabetic retinopathy – When the blood vessels in the back of the eye become weakened and damaged, it causes swelling or leakage of blood in the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy: non-proliferative and proliferative. Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR) is caused by fluid from existing blood vessels in the retina leaking into the macula, causing it to swell. This can lead to blurry or cloudy vision. In more advanced stages, Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR) sets in, and new blood vessels form in the retina. These irregular blood vessels can cause damage by leaking blood into the vitreous. If untreated, PDR can potentially lead to retinal detachment.
- Macular degeneration – The macula is the light-sensitive tissue located in the center of the retina at the back of the eye that provides sharp, clear, straight-ahead vision. Macular degeneration is a progressive eye condition that affects millions of people around the world. This debilitating disease robs people of all but the outermost, peripheral vision, leaving only dim images or black holes at the center of vision, but it rarely results in complete blindness.
When disease or injury causes damage to the retina, vision loss occurs. In these severe cases, treatments may not restore vision. However, doctors can always do their best to stop or slow the disease’s progression in less severe cases. When caught and treated early, most retinal disease is manageable, and vision loss can be minimal. Early detection of retinal conditions is the key to minimizing vision loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my retina is damaged?
Even doctors have to use special equipment to see the retina clearly. Symptoms can be subtle. The best way to detect or prevent retinal damage is with routine annual eye exams with your eye doctor.
What causes retinal damage?
The retina can be damaged by any number of factors. Three of the most common are eye disease, eye injury, or environmental factors like solar radiation.