The retina is a layer of tissue in the back of your eye that senses light and sends images to your brain. In the center of this nerve tissue is the macula. It provides the sharp, central vision needed for reading, driving and seeing fine detail.
Retinal disorders affect this vital tissue. They can affect your vision, and some can be serious enough to cause blindness. Examples are
- Macular degeneration – a disease that destroys your sharp, central vision
- Diabetic eye disease
- Retinal detachment – a medical emergency, when the retina is pulled away from the back of the eye
- Retinoblastoma – cancer of the retina. It is most common in young children.
- Macular pucker – scar tissue on the macula
- Macular hole – a small break in the macula that usually happens to people over 60
- Floaters – cobwebs or specks in your field of vision
Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 and older. It is a disease that destroys your sharp, central vision. You need central vision to see objects clearly and to do tasks such as reading and driving.
AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. It does not hurt, but it causes cells in the macula to die. There are two types: wet and dry. Wet AMD happens when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula. These new blood vessels often leak blood and fluid. Wet AMD damages the macula quickly. Blurred vision is a common early symptom. Dry AMD happens when the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down. Your gradually lose your central vision. A common early symptom is that straight lines appear crooked.
Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss. Treatment can slow vision loss. It does not restore vision.
If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Over time, this can damage your eyes. The most common problem is diabetic retinopathy. It is a leading cause of blindness in American adults.
Your retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. You need a healthy retina to see clearly. Diabetic retinopathy damages the tiny blood vessels inside your retina.
You may not notice it at first. Symptoms can include
• Blurry or double vision
• Rings, flashing lights, or blank spots
• Dark or floating spots
• Pain or pressure in one or both of your eyes
• Trouble seeing things out of the corners of your eyes
Treatment often includes laser treatment or surgery, with follow-up care.
Two other eye problems can happen to people with diabetes. A cataract is a cloud over the lens of your eye. Surgery helps you see clearly again. Glaucoma happens when pressure builds up in the eye, damaging the main nerve. Eye drops or surgery can help.
If you have diabetes, you should have a complete eye exam every year. Finding and treating problems early may save your vision.
A retinal detachment lifts or pulls the retina from its normal position. It can occur at any age, but it is more common in people over age 40. It affects men more than women and whites more than African Americans. A retinal detachment is also more likely to occur in people who
• Are extremely nearsighted
• Have had a retinal detachment in the other eye
• Have a family history of retinal detachment
• Have had cataract surgery
• Have other eye diseases or disorders
• Have had an eye injury
Symptoms include an increase in the number of floaters, which are little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in your field of vision, and/or light flashes in the eye. It may also seem like there is a “curtain” over your field of vision.
A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If not promptly treated, it can cause permanent vision loss. If you have any symptoms, see an eye care professional immediately. Treatment includes different types of surgery.
Cancer of the eye is uncommon. It can affect the outer parts of the eye, such as the eyelid, which are made up of muscles, skin and nerves. If the cancer starts inside the eyeball it’s called intraocular cancer. The most common intraocular cancers in adults are melanoma and lymphoma. The most common eye cancer in children is retinoblastoma, which starts in the cells of the retina. Cancer can also spread to the eye from other parts of the body.
Treatment for eye cancer varies by the type and by how advanced it is. It may include surgery, radiation therapy, freezing or heat therapy, or laser therapy.