What is a Retina
Located at the back of the eye, the retina senses light and images and sends them as signals to the brain via the optic nerve. As such, retinal conditions can have a significant impact on your vision. There are several common retinal conditions, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration foremost among them.
Over 80 percent of people who have diabetes will develop some degree of retinopathy during their lifetime (those with Type 1 diabetes are more prone to developing the condition than those with Type 2 diabetes). Fortunately, as long as diabetic retinopathy is identified and properly treated before the retina is severely damaged, there is an excellent chance of stabilizing the disease and stopping its progression in its tracks.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 65 years of age. The condition affects the macula (the center part of the retina), and leads to a loss of sharpness and detail in your vision. This may make it difficult to read, drive, see faces, thread a needle, or see small objects. Other symptoms include distorted vision and photo-stress responses like snow blindness and sun blindness.
There are two forms of macular degeneration, a dry form and a wet form. The wet form is sometimes treatable with laser surgery, and a new treatment called photodynamic therapy (PDT) has recently become available, as well.
What Causes Macular Degeneration, and Who Is at Risk?
While the root causes of macular degeneration remain unknown, we do know that women are at a slightly higher risk of developing the condition than men, and that people who are Caucasian are more likely to develop macular degeneration than those who are African-American.
Macular degeneration appears to be hereditary in some families but not in others. You are at an increased risk if you have experienced long-term sun exposure, if you have suffered a head injury or infection, or if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or nutritional deficiencies. Smoking also increases your risk.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
At first, macular degeneration may cause little, if any, noticeable change in your vision. However, as the condition progresses, you may start to notice a variety of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty reading without extra light and magnification.
- Seeing objects as distorted or blurred, or abnormal in shape, size, or color.
- The perception that objects “jump” when you try to look right at them.
- Difficulty seeing clearly enough to read or drive.
- Inability to see details.
- A blind spot in the center of your field of vision.
Diagnosing Macular Degeneration
Receiving regular eye exams is important in order to determine whether you’re at risk for macular degeneration, especially because detecting the disease early may increase the effectiveness of treatment. At Kleiman Evangelista Eye Centers of Texas, our experienced eye care professionals use various instruments and tests to identify changes in your macula.
Angiography is the most widely used diagnostic test for macular degeneration. During the test, a harmless red-orange dye called fluorescein is injected into a vein in your arm. The dye travels through the body, eventually making its way to the blood vessels in your retina. Then, a special camera takes photographs that will be analyzed to identify atypical new blood vessels or damage to your retina’s lining. The formation of new blood vessels from blood vessels in and under the macula is often the first physical sign that macular degeneration may develop.
Alternatively, a method known as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) uses light waves to create a contour map of the retina, which can show areas of thickening or fluid accumulation.
Treating Macular Degeneration
In many cases, the effects of macular degeneration can be mitigated through the use of optical aids like strong reading glasses, magnifying glasses, and telescopes and non-optical aids like large-print periodicals and checkbooks, enlarged reading and writing guides for books or envelopes, large numeric telephone dials, and audio books. A variety of support groups are also available for the growing number of senior citizens who are affected by macular degeneration.
During the early stages of the disease, your eye doctor may simply recommend regular eye exams, attention to diet, in-home vision monitoring, and nutritional supplements — research has shown that some vitamins and antioxidants can actually help prevent or slow the progression of macular degeneration.
In rare cases of wet macular degeneration, laser treatment may be recommended. This involves the use of painless laser light to destroy abnormal, leaking blood vessels under the retina. This form of treatment is only an option when abnormal blood vessels are far enough away from the macula that the procedure will not damage your eyes. While laser treatment can slow or stop the progression of macular degeneration, it is not intended to restore vision that has already been lost.
Regardless of your unique combination of risk factors, if you are over the age of 65, you should be sure to receive an annual ophthalmologic examination. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced ophthalmologists, who will be able to tell you whether you show any signs of retinal conditions, including diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.
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Kleiman Evangelista’s doctors provide industry-leading care using the latest, advanced technology and techniques.
Very courteous and professional. Treated me in a way that is top of the line. Made sure I understood everything they were doing. A really great experience.
- Michael S.
The physician was extremely knowledgeable and approachable. Actually, the entire staff was first class.
- Victoria C.
This place is amazing… everyone was great..the procedure itself was not as scary as I thought and now I’m not needing glasses anymore..not even readers
- Cinn R.
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