Vitreous and Retina Conditions and Treatments
Retina Conditions ResearchThe retina specialists listed in our Leading Medical Clinics of the World® directory are ophthalmologists who have additional, specialized training diagnosing and treating vitreoretinal diseases and other conditions affecting the retina and vitreous.
Responsible for converting light rays into neural signals, the retina (a thin layer of tissue located at the back of the eyeball) sends these signals to the brain, which converts it into an image. The vitreous is a gel-like substance that is attached to the retina and located in the center of the eye; its main function is to provide structural support to the eye and maintain retinal health. Problems affecting the retina and vitreous could lead to vision loss and even blindness, in some cases. Find out more about the various conditions that could affect the retina and vitreous, and the treatment options available to you through our network of retina specialists
Conditions Affecting the Retina and Vitreous
Also called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), macular degeneration is a disease that occurs when the macula (the central part of the retina) deteriorates and causes vision loss (usually central vision) over time.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that occurs when unstable blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina and cause optic nerve damage. The byproduct of this condition is vision loss and even permanent blindness, if left untreated.
Retinal vein occlusion (RVO)
Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a retinal condition that occurs when a blood clot blocks a retinal vein, causing blood and other fluids to build up inside the retina, leading to (often sudden) vision loss. This condition is often caused by other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, glaucoma and diabetes.
A retinal tear occurs when the vitreous pulls away from the retina and causes a retinal tear. This sometimes causes vitreous fluid to seep through the retina, pulling it from its position at the back of the eye and causing detachment. A retinal detachment often occurs as a result of the vitreous contracting or shrinking within the eye, but may also occur as a result of an eye injury or as a complication of diabetes or an eye disorder. Retinal detachment is considered an emergency condition that will cause blindness if left untreated.
Central Serous Retinopathy (CSR)
Central serous retinopathy is a condition that occurs when fluid builds up under the retina as a result of fluid leakage from the choroid, which is the tissue layer under the retina that is filled with blood vessels. This fluid buildup causes distortions in vision as a result of a small detachment made under the retina.
A macular pucker is a layer of scar tissue that forms over the macula (the center of the retina that is responsible for central vision). A macular pucker, also called an epiretinal membrane, usually occurs as a result of aging, though it may also be caused by other factors such as a detached retina, diabetic retinopathy, uveitis or eye trauma.
A macular hole is a small break in the macula, which is the central portion of the retina that is responsible for central vision. Often occurring as a result of aging, the macular hole occurs when the vitreous shrinks and pulls away from the macula, causing it to tear. When this occurs, central vision can become blurred or distorted.
Cystoid macular edema (CME)
Cystoid macular edema is a condition where the macula (or center of the retina) becomes swollen with fluid in a series of cyst-like clusters. This condition may occur after cataract surgery, but may also be due to the presence of other conditions, such as retinal vein occlusion, uveitis or diabetes. Symptoms of this condition are blurred or decreased central vision.
Uveitis is a condition caused by inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye that houses the iris, ciliary body and choroid. Uveitis can be caused by an infection, eye trauma or surgery, or an immunological systemic disorder such as Lyme disease or multiple sclerosis. Symptoms include decreased vision, light sensitivity, eye pain and eye redness.
This rare disease is inherited through genetics and causes the retina to slowly deteriorate over time, eventually resulting in blindness. Early symptoms typically appear in childhood, and manifest as problems with night vision and a narrowed field of vision.
Floaters and flashes
Eye floaters, tiny spots seen drifting in the field of vision, occur when vitreous gel particles break off and float around in the central, more liquid center of the vitreous. An eye flash is a flicker of light that comes and goes in the vision. Floaters and flashes are typically benign and don’t require treatment, though at times (particularly when occurring suddenly) they may be a sign of a retinal tear or detachment.
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)
This eye disease occurs at birth in premature babies, and is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels on the retina. This growth can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. ROP has no signs or symptoms, and can only be properly detected and diagnosed through an eye exam by an ophthalmologist. In more severe cases, this disease requires treatment in order to prevent permanent vision loss.
Retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer that mostly affects young children, is a cancer that starts in the retina. It is a congenital disease (present at birth) that occurs when retinal cells cease to divide and mature, but instead grow out of control. Symptoms include a pupil that appears white when light is shone in the eye, eye redness, eye swelling and eyes that appear to look in different directions. Treatment options vary, though this serious condition can result in eye loss and even death if left untreated.
Diagnosing Retinal Conditions
Retinal conditions are detected and diagnosed by an ophthalmologist during a comprehensive eye exam that includes dilation. To check the back of the eye, an ophthalmologist may use an ophthalmoscopy (or fundoscopy) test, which uses an ophthalmoscope (a magnifying instrument) and a light to examine the retina and its associated structures. An ultrasound test may also be used to examine the retina.
Common Treatments for Retinal Conditions
As the conditions that affect the retina and vitreous are varied, the treatments available are as well, and may include one or more of the following:
An intravitreal injection, which involves injection of a shot of medicine into the eye, is often used to place medicine directly into the center of the eye, in the vitreous fluid, for treatment. This treatment can be used to effectively treat a variety of retina conditions, including macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Often, a series of injections is used as a means to prevent vision loss associated with certain eye diseases.
A vitrectomy is a surgery used to treat several disorders of the retina, including diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, macular puckers and macular holes. During this procedure, the vitreous gel is removed from the center of the eye and replaced with an injection of air, gas or liquid.
Retinal detachment surgery is used to reattach the retina, the goal being to prevent or restore lost vision. Scleral buckle surgery, pneumatic retinopexy and vitrectomy are types of retinal detachment procedures. The scleral buckle procedure drains the fluid from under the retina and then implants a piece of flexible silicone onto the outer wall of the eye, providing support to the retinal tear while it heals. The pneumatic retinopexy procedure uses the injection of a gas bubble in the eye in order to seal the retinal tear. A vitrectomy procedure that replaces the vitreous gel with a gas bubble or body fluids may also be used to repair a torn or detached retina.
Laser treatment uses a focused beam of laser light to treat various kinds of retinal disorders, including retinal tears, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The treatment can include using lasers to seal leaky blood vessels and repairing tears and holes in the retina.
Cryotherapy is a therapy that uses a cold metal probe to apply subfreezing temperatures to the retina, sealing it against the wall of the eye. This treatment is most often used for retina tears and detachment.
Finding the Right Retinal Specialist for You
The ophthalmologists in the Leading Medical Clinics of the World® network include retinal specialists who meet the following criteria:
- Well-respected by peers
- Positively reviewed by patients
- Ranked as a top medical practitioner in their field
- In good standing with their medical board(s)
- Operating from a clinic that upholds the highest level of healthcare standards
- What treatment options are available to me/my child?
- What are the risks and/or side effects associated with the surgery/ treatment?
- How many retinal surgeries have you performed?
- How long will the treatment or surgery last?
- What results can I expect?
- If my treatment involves medication, what types of foods, drugs and activities (driving, etc.) should I avoid while taking it?
- Will my/my child’s surgery be performed under anesthesia? If so, will it be general or local?
- What type of pain medication can I give my child to help with discomfort during recovery?
- How long will I have to keep my child out of school in order for him or her to recover fully from surgery?
- What types of limitations (driving, exercising, etc.) will I/my child have during the recovery period?
- If I need to have surgery, how long is the recovery period?
- How much time will I have to take off of work for recovery?
- Can you provide me with any patient information (whether print or digital) to help me better understand my/my child’s diagnosis and/or treatment?
- Do you offer evening or weekend appointments?
- What financing options are available to me as your patient?
- Will my insurance cover my surgery?
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