Retina disease and vision loss

The retina is the light sensitive tissue that lines the inside of the eye. It is responsible for converting light signals to electical signals that are then carried to the brain to create the image that we see. There are many conditions that can affect the health of your retina and lead to serious and permanent vision loss. In younger Americans, the most common disease that affects the retina is diabetes. In fact, changes in the retina from diabetes, known as diabetic retinopathy, can often be seen before a patient is even aware that they have diabetes. These changes are preventable with good blood sugar control and having your eyes checked regularly by an eye specialist. Just as patients with diabetes often seek care by an endocrinologist, a medical specialist with advanced training to treat diabetes, patients may also see a retina specialist, an ophthalmologist with specialized training to treat retinal diseases. The most common cause of vision loss in patients with diabetes is swelling of the retina, called diabetic macular edema. In the past, the mainstay of treatment for this condition was laser therapy. Although effective, there is some damaging effect of the laser. In recent national studies, new medications that can be injected into the eye by a retina specialist have been proven to be an effective treatment. These medicines are often used alone or in combination with laser to treat the edema with fewer side effects. In older Americans, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision loss and the number of patients affected is rising exponentially. There are two forms of AMD: Dry and Wet. Dry AMD is more common and usually less severe. It can be prevented and managed with a healthy diet and stopping smoking. In the past, there was no effective treatment that would improve the vision in patients with wet AMD, only treatments that would slow the loss of vision. However, in the past few years, revolutionary medicines have been developed that have been shown to improve vision in patients with wet AMD if treated early. No matter your age, there are many conditions that may affect the health of your retina. If you or someone you know is having symptoms of vision loss, seeking evaluation and treatment should be a high priority. The sooner the condition is diagnosed and treated; there is a greater chance of preserving or regaining your vision. --Retina Institute of California

********** Published: September 08, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 21