The retina is an astonishingly sophisticated part of your body. If the eye is a camera, then the retina is the darkroom where film gets developed.
Located towards the back of the eye, the retina is a unique layer of photosensitive tissue. When light hits these cells, they trigger a series of electrical impulses along the optic nerve, which are then decoded in the visual cortex. This is how human beings see – every time you watch a movie or look at a painting, your retinas are busy converting light into signals that your brain can understand.
Unfortunately, the retina is quite delicate. It suffers from wear and tear, and it can be affected by a number of conditions.
Common retina problems
Certain symptoms may indicate that you are developing retina problems. If you see “floaters” – pieces of debris that seem to float across your vision – or you start suddenly seeing bright flashes of light, you may have retina issues. Other symptoms include blurred or darkened vision or a narrowing of the field of vision.
If you are concerned about your retinas, you should contact an ophthalmologist immediately. Some common retina issues include:
- Detached retina
The retina is a thin layer of tissue resting on two other layers. In some cases, these can become detached and move out of its normal position. This is most common in people over 40 and can happen for a number of reasons, including eye injuries, cataracts, extreme near-sightedness or a family history of retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is painless, but will get worse without treatment. When one retina detaches, there is a high chance that the other retina will also detach, which means a risk of total blindness in the long term.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
AMD is a common condition that affects people over the age of 50. The macula is a small area at the centre of the retina that helps us to see objects directly ahead of us in a sharp detail. The macula degenerates over time, especially in smokers, and AMD sufferers may start to notice a blur in the centre of their vision. In mild cases, treatment focuses on using diet and exercise to prevent any further loss of vision. In advanced cases where sight is seriously impaired, laser surgery and photodynamic therapy may be an option.
- Retinitis pigmentosa (RP)
RP is a genetic condition that causes the cells of the retina to deteriorate over time. Early symptoms include a loss of night vision and a narrowing of peripheral vision. Treatment for RP is still only in the research stage, and the effects can be severe, but the good news is that it’s quite rare, affecting around 1 in 4,000 people. If you have a family history of RP, discuss it with an eye care specialist, even if you have not yet shown any symptoms.
A test to check the health of your retinas (called an ophthalmoscopy or sometimes a fundoscopy) is often given as part of a standard eye exam. You may need someone to drive you home after the test, as it can blur your vision for several hours. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to ask your ophthalmologist or eye care team who can help you determine whether you should have an ophthalmoscopy.
This article is offered by Moorfields retina specialist in Dubai