Symptoms of retinal disease
Some symptoms of retinal problems are common to various retinal diseases. This means that, before you are diagnosed, a particular symptom does not necessarily point to a specific retinal disease. Your retina specialist will be able to determine which retinal condition you are experiencing. It’s important to know that changes in vision in one eye may go unnoticed if the other eye has good vision and compensates for the eye with retinal challenges. That is just one reason both eyes need to be tested separately to detect any changes or issues.
Understanding retinal disease
Floaters and flashes
Continued shrinkage of the vitreous gel can cause a tugging or traction on the retina that produces intermittent flashes of light. A flash is a similar sensation to having been bumped in the eye and seeing “stars.” Any patient with a sudden new onset of floaters or flashes of light should have their retinas examined to determine what is causing these problems.
In some patients, continued pulling of the vitreous gel can damage the retina, producing problems such as a retinal tear or retinal detachment.
If the retina tears, fluid can seep behind the retina through the opening caused by the tear. The gradual accumulation of fluid can cause a more dramatic separation of the retina from the eye wall, which is called retinal detachment.
Diabetic retinopathy is a serious eye disease that can occur in people with diabetes.Patients with elevated blood glucose for prolonged periods of time often develop damage to the retinal blood vessels that supply blood to the retina. The damage to these vessels can cause abnormal bleeding in the eye, swelling of the retina, poor blood flow to the retina, and retinal scars.
Abnormal bleeding, called vitreous hemorrhage, occurs in the central cavity of the eye and can cause floaters and flashes. Although vitreous hemorrhage is often caused by advanced diabetic retinopathy, other retinal conditions that can lead to vitreous hemorrhage as well.
A thorough retinal examination should be undertaken to determine the cause of any new floaters or flashes, and to ensure that the correct treatment and management takes place.
Metamorphopsia (distortion of vision)
Very often, the earliest symptom produced by these conditions is a distortion of the vision, rather than visual loss. For example, a telephone pole might look curved or bowed rather than straight. A retinal specialist should evaluate new onset metamorphopsia as soon as possible. One can test themselves for metamorphopsia by using an Amsler grid at home.
Decreased central or peripheral vision
If the retinal pathology is in the corner of the retina, a patient will experience a gray or black “veil,” or curtain, obscuring any portion of the side vision. This symptom is especially significant if the area of peripheral vision loss appears to be moving towards the center, because it may be a sign of retinal detachment.
Prompt retinal evaluation is recommended.