Retinal dystrophy is one of the most common retinal diseases. These disorders lead to a total irreversible loss of vision in several thousand people each year. Today, they are among the most dangerous pathologies because even with modern medicine, it is extremely difficult to fight them.
What is retinal dystrophy?
The retina is a very complex mechanism. It perceives the image and transmits the signal to the brain for interpretation.
Retinal dystrophy is not a separate disease but a whole group of pathologies that share some common manifestations:
- Defect in the structural tissue;
- Insufficient nutrient supply to the affected area;
- Decreased retinal density;
- Disrupted anatomical correlation between the retinal layers (there are 10 of them in total).
Types of retinal dystrophy
The retina is divided into two main areas: central and peripheral. Accordingly, degenerative processes can occur in any of these areas. Therefore, there are two main types of dystrophies concerning the localization of the destructive process:
1. Peripheral retinal degeneration
The peripheral zone consists of rods — special photoreceptors responsible for spatial perception and twilight vision. Peripheral dystrophy remains unnoticed for quite a long time and is difficult to be diagnosed until the first symptoms appear. Here lies its threat. Gradual tissue destruction begins, which can lead to retinal detachment and blindness.
2. Central retinal degeneration
The central zone consists of cones, which determine visual clarity, color perception, and bright light perception. With central dystrophy, the ability to write and read decreases, and it is difficult for the person to move around or drive a car.
Among all central vision lesions, age-related macular degeneration of the retina, or AMD, remains the leader. The macula is the central zone of the retina, and it is subject to changes after 50-60 years of age. The disease is characterized by progression and leads to complete loss of central vision. The pathology is divided into two groups:
- Dry retinal dystrophy develops in all cases of AMD and remains so in 85% of patients. Dry dystrophy changes the retinal pigment epithelium, and the so-called drusen or yellow spots are formed. On accumulating, they cause inflammation and provoke the growth of new blood vessels in the eye. As soon as there are more of these pathological vessels, they grow under the retina and cause microhemorrhages. This is how the process progresses to a wet form.
- Wet retinal dystrophy develops only in 15% of cases, but it leads to irreversible loss of central vision. Permanent hemorrhages and edema cause damage to the optic nerve and lead to scar tissue.
3. Congenital retinal degeneration
A special type of disease that should not be forgotten is congenital retinal degeneration.
It is a hereditary pathology and its development cannot be slowed down. All congenital degenerations sooner or later lead to severe and irreversible loss of vision.
Causes of occurrence
The causes of retinal degeneration depend on many factors. Thus, congenital degeneration is exclusively genetic and cannot be avoided. Age-related macular degeneration develops after 50 years of age and is a consequence of the aging process.
Ophthalmologists distinguish several common factors in retinal degeneration:
- Age over 50-60;
- Cardiovascular system pathologies such as hypertension, atherosclerosis;
- Endocrine disorders, in particular, diabetes mellitus;
- Severe nutritional disorders, massive vitamin and mineral deficiencies;
- Alcohol and tobacco abuse;
- Frequent ARVIs;
- Long-term exposure to ultraviolet;
- Traumas and surgeries of the visual organs.
Dystrophy is most often observed with myopia. People with myopia account for 40% of cases of retinal degeneration.
Symptoms are variable and depend on the type of the disease.
The AMD develops gradually. At the initial stages, it is difficult to notice it because one can see it as usual. This is caused by the fact that the pathology first affects one eye, while the healthy organ takes over the entire visual strain. That is why the person does not notice anything. It may take up to 8 years until the pathology appears in the second eye. In later stages, blind spots appear directly in the central part of the eye. Their appearance is followed by the rapid development of the wet form of the disease.
Congenital degeneration in infants can be suspected if there is a family history of this condition. The disease can occur in childhood, and it is often detected during an eye exam.
Basically, when retinal degeneration develops, the symptoms are as follows:
- Visual disturbance in the central part or in the periphery;
- Blurred image;
- Image distortion. Objects and drawings become “wavy”, curved, lose their normal outlines;
- Your eye is no longer able to distinguish colors;
- With the loss of peripheral vision, objects are “lost” in the lateral visual field;
- Flickers or bright flashes in front of the eyes.
With the first symptoms, you should visit an ophthalmologist for a proper diagnosis.
The disease is usually detected during a routine examination of the eye ground. It is quite difficult to detect the peripheral form of the disease even with a dilated pupil, so the most accurate equipment is required.
Retinal degeneration requires standard diagnostics such as a complete vision test, examination of the optic nerve, measurement of intraocular pressure, and other parameters.
Eximer Ophthalmology Clinic employs a brand-new RTVue-100 optical coherence tomography scanner. This device shows all retinal structures, the optic nerve, and its disk in 2D and 3D formats. This allows changes to be detected at the earliest stages when the patient himself has not yet noticed them. A timely diagnosis gives a favorable prognosis for treatment. All data on the eye condition remains in the electronic database of the clinic, so the doctor can easily track the dynamics.
Retinal degeneration in pregnancy
Pregnancy causes changes in a woman’s body, and not all of them are easily tolerated. All pregnant women should consult an ophthalmologist at 10-14 and 32-36 weeks. The doctor tests both the quality of vision and the eye ground. If pathology is noticed, it is recommended to undergo treatment before delivery. Delivery with untreated retinal degeneration may result in complications.
Contraindications for treating retinal degeneration
If this disorder has already been diagnosed, there are almost no contraindications to surgery. The eye must be treated immediately to avoid complications such as a retinal tear or retinal detachment. During diagnosis, it will be clear if any factors could interfere with the surgery. However, as practice shows, such factors are absent in the majority of cases and the surgery may be successful.
Retinal degeneration treatment at Eximer Ophthalmology Clinic
Nowadays, retinal degeneration is treated in two ways worldwide:
- Laser photocoagulation;
- Injections of special medications.
Both methods have a highly proven efficacy. In Ukraine, such treatment is available at Eximer Ophthalmology Clinic.
Injections are often indicated for macular degeneration. They can relieve swelling and stop the growth of abnormal vessels:
- Anti-VEGF drugs are unique remedies that affect vascular endothelial growth factor (known as VEGF), slowing the process of their uncontrolled growth under the retina. The drugs are developed based on ranibizumab. This substance contains fragments of antibodies to VEGF. The injections are given within a few seconds in a course selected by the doctor. This method is effective but requires constant monitoring.
- A special implant for the slow drug injection into the retina. By using it, you can significantly reduce the swelling of the macula and maintain the effect for up to six months.
Laser photocoagulation of the retina
It is aimed at strengthening the retina. This procedure prevents the development of diseases on the eye ground, slows down retinal degeneration, and prevents retinal tear and detachment. Laser photocoagulation is performed both in the case of peripheral dystrophy and in the case of central dystrophy.
The highly sensitive laser is used to “solder” the damaged areas of the retina to the choroid. Laser photocoagulation is bloodless and takes up to 15 minutes. The patient does not feel anything due to local droplet anesthesia. The patient can go home right after the procedure.
Laser photocoagulation provides one of the key advantages of laser photocoagulation. It is both safe and harmless. It is even approved for pregnant women; thus, they can deliver naturally without resorting to cesarean section surgery.
Surgery in case of complications
If there are complications of retinal degeneration, surgery is urgently needed. Surgical intervention is performed for retinal detachments. This is a so-called vitrectomy, in which the vitreous body of the eye (transparent gel), scar tissue, and blood are removed. The space is filled with silicone oil or gas biologically compatible with the human body. They do not cause rejection, smoothly expand and fix the retina in the eye, preventing new detachments and hemorrhages.
Benefits of retinal treatment at Eximer Ophthalmology Clinic
- Exclusive techniques and high-precision equipment.
- A modern surgical unit, built to the highest criteria and quality standards.
- Over 20 years of surgical experience.
- Qualified ophthalmic surgeons.
- Fast recovery period after surgery. During the first day, the patient may return to the usual lifestyle.
If you have had an operation, then the following is contraindicated in the first 5-7 days:
- Alcohol, as it dilates blood vessels;
- Salty and spicy food, which provokes edema;
- Temperature fluctuations, in particular, a bathhouse and sauna.
Driving and watching television for too long is also not advisable. One week after the retinal intervention, you can return to your usual visual activities.
Can I still live with retinal degeneration?
If retinal degeneration is already detected, there are almost no contraindications to surgery. The eye should be restored immediately to avoid complications such as a retinal tear or retinal detachment.
In the early stages, the process can be controlled, but several recommendations should be followed:
- Avoid stress;
- Get rid of bad habits;
- Follow a diet rich in vitamins and minerals. It is essential to consume food containing vitamin A.
Do not forget to visit an ophthalmologist for preventive purposes, even if you have no marked symptoms of retinal pathology. Be alert to your vision, and consult a doctor if you experience the slightest changes such as flashes in front of your eyes, intermittent spotting, or clarity changes in objects.