What Are Retinal Diseases?
Retinal diseases are diseases that impact the light-sensitive tissue located at the back side of the eye. Diseases may include diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment. When the retina retracts from the blood vessels supplying oxygen, it results in a medical emergency known as retinal detachment. Diabetic retinopathy, just as the name suggests, refers to a diabetes-related complication that may damage the light-sensitive blood vessels that supply blood to the eye, particularly the back side. Both of these diseases may lead to blindness if left untreated.
Retinal Detachment: When a patient is diagnosed with retinal detachment, it requires immediate medical attention, usually including immediate surgery to preserve eyesight. This condition causes the retina to be retracted away from the tiny blood vessels (choroid) that supply the retina with nutrients and oxygen. It causes the retinal cells to experience oxygen deprivation, thereby increasing the risk of suffering permanent loss of vision. The longer these vessels remain separated from the retina, the more likely the patient is to experience permanent blindness. Highly near-sighted individuals are more likely to suffer from retinal detachment.
Diabetic Retinopathy: This diabetes-related complication is likely to be caused by damaged blood vessels that supply the retina with oxygen and nutrients. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients are at higher risk to develop this medical condition. In fact, the longer a person has diabetes, the more likely he or she will develop diabetic retinopathy. In the beginning, diabetic retinopathy often exhibits only mild vision issues or no symptoms at all but eventually results in total blindness most of the time. Early warning signs may include poor night vision, blurred vision, red film, floating spots, or dark streaks. A dilated eye examination can best diagnose this condition.
To test for diabetic retinopathy, the doctor puts drops inside the eyes to dilate the pupils to allow for a better view of what the inside of the eye looks like. These drops may cause blurring which will eventually disappear after several hours. Below are some of the things doctors look for when performing this exam:
- Abnormal blood vessels
- The growth of scar tissue/ new blood vessels
- Retinal detachment
- Fatty deposits and blood in the retina
- Swelling in the retina
- Bleeding in the vitreous
- Any abnormalities in the patient’s optic nerve
Who Should Be Checked For Retinal Diseases?
Sometimes there are clear warning signs of retinal disease. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you should have an eye exam done immediately. Keep in mind that some of the items listed below may not necessarily be symptoms, but are considered risk factors:
- Sudden blurred vision
- The sudden appearance of shapes “floating” in front of your eyes
- A shadow covering your visual field
- One or both eyes experience sudden flashes of light
- High blood pressure
- Poor control of blood sugar levels
How To Test For Retinal Diseases
Doctors use specific procedures, with the help of specialized instruments, to diagnose retinal diseases, particularly retinal detachment. Some of the tests to help diagnose retinal disease include:
Wide-Field Retinal Imaging: The doctor utilizes a particular camera to view the back of the patient’s eyes even if only one of them has a problem. If no tear is identified during the patient’s visit, a return visit may be required to confirm that the patient’s eye has no characteristics of a delayed tear due to vitreous separation.
Dilated Retinal Examination: To check the back of the patient’s eye and retina, an ophthalmoscope and a special bright-light-emitting instrument is used. The doctor prefers the ophthalmoscope because it gives a comprehensive view to provide any particular details like retinal holes or detachments that may be a cause for alarm.
Optical Coherence Tomography: This imaging instrument is non-invasive and can be used to check eye problems even before the patient starts exhibiting any eye-related symptoms. OCT can also detect macular holes, hypertensive retinopathy, as well as optic nerve damage.