The retina is the thin lining of nerve tissue in the back of the eye. It allows light to be processed before sending the information along the optic nerve to the brain, enabling sight. Because the retina plays such a vital role in vision, problems with the retina can have a strong impact on the clarity and quality of vision.
Several common conditions involving the retina include diabetic eye disease, blood vessel blockage, and macular degeneration.
Retinal Surgery
Retinal swelling can be treated using laser or steroids in or around the eye. Laser treatment applied to the retina encourages local absorption of fluid. Laser is administered in a clinic procedure room using numbing eye drops and a contact lens that focuses the laser light.

Steroid treatment may involve an injection around or inside the eye. The steroid treatment decreases the swelling by reducing the inflammation associated with the abnormal blood vessels. Injection of steroid in the eye is performed in the clinic with numbing drops administered beforehand.

Occasionally, repeated laser treatments or steroid injections are needed. If there are growing blood vessels in the back of the eye, laser treatment in the retinal periphery may be needed. This treatment is more extensive and may require two sessions and/or a numbing injection around the eye.

Retinal Detachment
A retinal detachment occurs when the retina is separated from its normal position at the back of the eye. The retina does not work when it is detached.

People with retinal detachments often describe blurry vision or a curtain blocking part of the vision. A shower of new floaters or small flashes of light may occur as well. Usually there is no pain associated with retinal detachments.

Retinal detachments often lead to blindness if they are not repaired, so prompt evaluation by an eye doctor is important. Treatment of retinal detachments may involve a laser, gas bubble in the eye, an encircling band around the eye, and/or removal of the vitreous gel that fills the back of the eye.

Macular Degeneration
Age related macular degeneration is a disease of the retina and the underlying pigmented cells. The pigmented cells accumulate waste products, clump together, and lose the ability to support the retina. The retina overlying the damaged pigmented cells then dies off. This type of retinal damage is called dry macular degeneration.

Occasionally, abnormal blood vessels grow through the layer of clumped pigmented cells. These vessels bleed and leak fluid, causing vision loss. Abnormal new vessel growth signifies wet macular degeneration.

Patients with mild dry macular degeneration may describe a fuzzy spot in the center of their vision. Wet macular degeneration may also cause distortion of straight objects making them appear bent or wavy. In advanced macular degeneration there may be a central blind spot, though peripheral vision typically is unaffected.

Treatment of dry macular degeneration often involves high dose antioxidant vitamins. Wet macular degeneration may be treated with a hot or cold laser or medication injections within the eye.

Diabetes and the Eye
Diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of vision loss in the United States. High blood sugar levels may also increase the risk of retinal disease, cataract and glaucoma. A yearly dilated eye exam for patients with diabetes is the best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease.

In diabetes mellitus the body does not process and store blood sugar properly. High blood sugar levels can cause abnormalities in the small blood vessels in the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light. Normally, the blood vessels in the retina do not leak. In diabetic eye disease, the retinal blood vessels develop leaks, allowing fluid or blood to accumulate in the retina. Bleeding or leaking of fluid may cause retinal swelling, keeping the retina from working properly.

Longstanding diabetes may also cause blockage of retinal blood vessels. Since the retina depends on blood vessels for nutrition, this blockage keeps the retina from functioning properly. The impaired retina sends out chemical signals to promote new blood vessel growth. These fragile new blood vessels easily bleed and cause scarring. Floaters, vision loss and retinal detachment may result.

People with retinal swelling describe blurry vision or a loss of vision that may range from barely noticeable to severe. Patients with abnormal new vessels may notice a shower of black specks, a sudden blackout or just haziness of the vision.

Swelling in the retina can be treated using a laser or steroid injections in or around the eye. Laser treatment is used to decrease the growth of abnormal new vessels.

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