What are The Risks for Macular Disease?

It has been estimated that approximately 11 million people live with age-related macular degeneration. This is only one of several macular diseases. Each of them can lead to vision loss. It is important to know what macular disease and what your risk factors may be because outside of that and routine eye exams, it is not easy to spot the early warning signs of damage to the macula. At Vitreo Retinal Surgery facilities, our experienced team offers comprehensive screenings for macular diseases. Here, we discuss details regarding risk factors and how you may protect your eyes.

Macular Diseases

The macula is the central aspect of the retina, a part of the back of the eye. When light enters the eye, it focuses on the retina. It is then transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. Some of the conditions that can affect this part of the eye include:

  • Diabetic macular edema
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Macular puckering
  • Macular holes
  • Retinal vein occlusion

Each of these macular diseases may present uniquely. However, damage to the macula typically causes symptoms such as reduced night and central vision, visual distortions such as floaters, and blurriness.

Risk Factors for Macular Diseases

Family history, genetics, and age are some of the strongest risk factors for macular conditions. However, other factors also contribute. For example, studies show that smoking increases the risk of damage to the macula. This may be because smoking can cause vascular problems and the eyes are reliant on numerous tiny blood vessels. Additionally, a diet that is high in salt, sugar, or fat may increase the risk of macular diseases. Unhealthy eating habits are associated with diabetes, and diabetes is a contributing factor for several eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy. Finally, surgery or an eye injury may affect the vitreous, the fluid center of the eye. If the vitreous shrinks from an injury, it can tug on the back of the eye, leading to macular pucker or macular holes.

If you want to know more about your risk for macular disease, contact us. One of our experienced retina specialists can perform a comprehensive exam to help you better understand your eye health. Call (800) VRS-2500 to contact one of our conveniently located offices in Minnesota.

How Laser Treatment Benefits Diabetic Retinopathy

The National Institutes of Health report that approximately 2 out of 5 diabetics also have some degree of diabetic retinopathy. This condition, secondary to diabetes and unregulated blood sugar, can cause vision loss. Research indicates that children and adults with Type I and Type II diabetes, as well as pregnant women with gestational diabetes, are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. For this reason, regular dilated eye exams are advised for these patients. Several treatment options are available for this condition, including laser treatments such as photocoagulation.

How Laser Photocoagulation Helps Preserve Vision

The retina is a piece of tissue that sits at the back of the eye. Light lands on the retina and is translated into images through the optic nerve. Diabetic retinopathy involves swelling in the tiny blood vessels within the retina. Swelling causes blood and fluid to lead from the affected vessels. This can scar the retina or lead to detachment, in which the retina separates from the lining of the eye. Advanced diabetic retinopathy may involve the growth of abnormal blood vessels and excessive leakage of fluid and blood into the back of the eye.

Laser photocoagulation may be recommended as a method of stopping blood vessels from leaking. This quick procedure can also destroy abnormal blood vessels. One technique that is used is called focal photocoagulation, in which laser energy is direct to a small number of concentrated blood vessels. The heat from the laser seals off the blood vessels to prevent further leaking. Another technique, called scatter photocoagulation, may be done to destroy numerous abnormal blood vessels at once.

By destroying abnormal blood vessels and sealing those that are leaking, laser photocoagulation can slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy and vision loss. The procedure is conducted in the office. Patients are made comfortable with a local anesthetic administered as eye drops. Slight stinging may be felt or flashes of light seen as the laser works on blood vessels. The entire procedure is usually done in under an hour.

Know the Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy

Anyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes should be aware of the effects their condition could have on their eyes. Routine eye exams are vital, as is continued blood sugar management. Signs of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty reading
  • “Cobwebs” in vision
  • Black spots or floaters in vision
  • “Holes” in vision
  • Not seeing well when driving
  • Difficulty seeing colors or becoming colorblind

When diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed early, conservative treatment using prescription medication may slow or halt the progress of blood vessel damage in the eyes.

If you have signs of diabetic retinopathy, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with us. Call 800) VRS-2500.

What Causes Macular Edema?

There are certain eye conditions that we hear about relatively often. Cataracts, for example, or even glaucoma. As retinal specialists, we diagnose and treat more obscure problems, such as macular edema. Here, we discuss what this condition is, what causes it, and what we may do to protect eye health.

The macula is the central part of the retina, the thin layer of tissue that sits at the back of the eye. When light enters the front of the eye, it passes through the lens and the vitreous and lands on the retina. The retina processes light and delivers signals to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain processes these signals and forms an image. As the center of the retina, the macula processes finer vision, that which we use to read, write, and perform up-close tasks. Macular edema is the thickening or swelling of the macula that requires treatment so that vision is not disrupted or lost.

Why Macular Edema Develops

Macular edema results from damaged blood vessels the retina. Damaged blood vessels can leak blood, fluids, and small amounts of fat. These can accumulate on the macula, causing thickening or swelling. Studies suggest that damaged blood vessels are a common side effect of diabetes. Macular edema is often considered a complication of diabetic retinopathy. However, other factors may contribute to this condition, including:

  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Blockages in the small veins in the retina
  • Inflammation of the uvea, a middle-eye structure
  • Genetic disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa
  • Side effects of certain medications

A history of eye surgery is not considered a direct cause of macular edema but it could be a factor that increases a person’s risk of blood vessel damage in the retina. For example, the blood vessels in the retina may be more sensitive after cataract surgery, increasing the risk of fluid leakage onto the macula.

Treatments for Macular Edema

At this time, macular edema is not a curable condition. Doctors provide care to manage swelling in the macula and protect long-term vision. A retinal specialist may reduce the thickness of the macula by injecting medication into this part of the eye. Alternatively, laser treatment may be administered to seal off leaking blood vessels. Treatments for macular edema to not reverse vision loss that has occurred. However, they can stabilize the condition to prevent worsening.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a retinal disorder, it is important to consult with a specialist. We are proud to serve physicians and patients in Edina, Minneapolis, St. Cloud, and various other Minnesota cities. To locate an office near you, call (800) VRS-2500.

What is Macular Pucker and What Would One Do About This Condition?

Here is an interesting detail about being a retinal specialist: you diagnose and treat conditions that many people have never heard of. If you’ve heard the term “macular pucker” before, you are among a very, very small group. For the most part, one only becomes familiar with this problem if they or someone they love is diagnosed with it. Here, we discuss what macular pucker is, who may develop it, and what we do about it when we find it.

Macular pucker is an eye disease that develops in the macula. The macula is the central part of the retina, which sits at the back of the eye. The macula is responsible for forming central vision. A macular pucker, as it may sound, involves bulging or wrinkling in this part of the retina. Normally, the macula lies flat. This position is necessary for normal function. A wrinkle or bulge will interrupt the clarity of central vision. People with macular pucker may experience cloudiness, a graying of their central field of vision, or blank spots in central vision. In some cases, no symptoms develop. Macular pucker may affect any person. However, studies indicate that there are certain people who have a higher risk of developing this condition.

People with Retinal Conditions

Eye conditions that affect the retina may increase the risk for macular pucker. Common retinal conditions include:

  • A torn or detached retina
  • Posterior vitreous detachment
  • Damaged or abnormal blood vessels in the retina
  • Swelling in the eye, increased intraocular pressure
  • Injury to the eye
  • Inflammation in the eye

Older Adults

Macular pucker is more commonly found in older adults. This could be because, as we age, the vitreous fluid that fills the center of the eye shrinks. The vitreous is normally gel-like and viscous. With age, it becomes more fluid, which could cause it to separate from the retina. Tiny fibers in the vitreous can tug on the retina, resulting in tears or other damage. Where there is damage, there will be scar tissue, and scar tissue could lead to macular pucker. The American Society of Retina Specialists reports that 2% of adults aged 50 and over show signs of macular pucker. Approximately 20% of adults aged 75 and older show signs of the condition.

VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA provides services to diagnose and treat conditions like macular pucker, macular holes, and several other problems. We are honored to accept referrals from physicians in our area and are committed to helping each patient address their eye health needs. To schedule a visit with us, call (800) VRS-2500.

Common Retinal Conditions that Can be Misdiagnosed

Medical misdiagnoses are difficult to understand. Doctors do their best to arrive at accurate conclusions about patients’ health based on available data. However, because there are innumerable medical conditions, and many of them mimic one another, even highly trained and experienced healthcare providers and sophisticated diagnostic equipment could overlook the correct issue. One of the best ways we have of reducing misdiagnoses in medicine at large and, for us, within the field of retina care, is to educate patients. The team at VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA is consistently armed with the most up-to-date information regarding retinal conditions. We share this information with patients to ensure they can make confident decisions about their care.

Three Commonly Misdiagnosed Retinal Conditions

Macular Hole

We receive numerous referrals from other doctors and appreciate the opportunity to provide advanced care for their patients. Sometimes, patients come to us believing they have a macular hole. This misdiagnosis isn’t too far off-base. What we often find is that a macular hole diagnosis is actually a lamellar macular hole. The difference relates to severity, with the lamellar macular hole being less severe.

A macular hole affects all layers of the retina, while a lamellar macular hole affects only one or a few.

A macular hole must be surgically corrected, while a lamellar macular hole typically does not require surgical intervention.

Central Retinal Vein Occlusion

Central retinal vein occlusion is a condition in which small blot hemorrhages may be scattered throughout all four quadrants of the eye. This same clinical data characterizes diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, both conditions can cause macular edema that is visually significant during an eye exam. A retina specialist may differentiate the two by the presence of disc edema and venous tortuosity (twisting of one or more veins) in the eye, which indicates the occlusion of the central retinal vein.

Retinoschisis

Like central retinal vein occlusion, peripheral retinoschisis shares similar indications with another condition. In this instance, it is that peripheral retinoschisis gets misdiagnosed as retinal detachment. In either condition, the retina may be elevated. A specialist looks for finite details such as white dots on the retina and a particular shape and thickness of this part of the eye to reach an accurate diagnosis. The distinction is critical because retinal detachment requires prompt surgical intervention to prevent vision loss, whereas peripheral retinoschisis does not.

The differences between retinal conditions often come down to the tiniest details. The objective of any comprehensive eye exam is not to create doubt in a patient’s mind that their referring doctor “got it wrong.” Our goal is to continue providing second-opinions as requested by referring physicians so patients receive the best possible care.

We proudly serve areas in and around Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Hermantown, Edina, St. Paul, and more. To locate an office near you, call (800) VRS-2500.

Frequently Asked Questions about Eye Floaters

When we reach a certain age, we may begin to notice objects drifting across our field of vision. These are phenomena called floaters. If you have noticed these objects and have attempted to look at them, you know they cannot be pinned down visually. Trying to look at a floater is the fastest way to get it to disappear, it seems. Because floaters are a common symptom experienced by most adults, we receive a lot of questions about this visual disturbance. Here, we answer some of the most common.

What is an eye floater?

Floaters are not imaginary objects floating through vision. They are small clumps of protein that have formed inside the eye. As light passes through the eye, these clumps may cast shadows on the retina. These appear as small blobs, cobwebs, hair, black dots, or worm-like shapes. As the eyes shift around, floaters move. They are most obvious when you are observing a uniform background such as the sky.

Why do floaters occur?

We get floaters as we get older because the vitreous humor, the gel-like fluid that fills the center of the eye, loses density. The liquid becomes watery and clumps of protein float through it. Protein clumps become visible as they cast shadows on the back of the eye. While age is the most common factor that contributes to floaters, they may also stem from inflammation, infection, an eye injury, or a retinal tear.

Should I be concerned about eye floaters?

Most people over the age of 40 will experience the occasional object floating around their field of vision. The change in the vitreous humor is a natural occurrence that is usually not a cause for concern. However, floaters are sometimes indicative of a retinal tear, a condition that can be very serious. A retinal tear may occur if the shrinking vitreous tugs on the retina so much that this structure begins to separate from the back of the eye. If the retina tears and begins to detach, floaters may coincide with shadowing coming over vision as well as streaks of light passing through the field of vision. These symptoms require prompt medical attention.

Floaters may go away on their own over time. However, it is wise to schedule a retinal exam if floaters develop to ensure that this important part of the eye is healthy and intact. VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA is proud to serve patients in several Minnesota cities, including St. Cloud, Minneapolis, and Duluth. To find an office near you, call (800) VRS-2500.

Macula | Blaine, MN

How Age-Related Macular Edema Affects Vision

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) describes the damage that occurs in the macula, the part of the eye in which central vision is formed. This common condition is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Although total blindness is not typically caused by AMD, people with this condition may suffer a diminished quality of life. For this reason, it is important to know how age-related macular edema may appear and what to do if it does.

What Is the Macula?

The macula is a part of the retina that is positioned at the center of the back of the eye. It is the part of the retina where, when light lands, transports electrical messages to the brain to form central vision, that which is straight ahead of the eyes. When the macula is damaged, light processing in this area is interrupted, causing the decrease or loss of central vision.

Symptoms of AMD

Damage to the macula does not cause vision loss right away. Milder symptoms often occur first. These include:

  • Sensitivity to glare
  • Fuzzy, blurry, or shadowing in the central vision
  • Difficulty seeing or reading in low-light
  • Distortion or blurring of straight lines

As the disease worsens, symptoms become more noticeable. When the disease reaches an advanced stage, everyday tasks can become a challenge due to the marked decrease in the central area of vision. Sufferers have a difficult time reading road signs, seeing objects up close, watching television, driving, and performing work or chores. Being able to see clearly only in peripheral vision, sufferers can become limited in how they engage in life.

Treating AMD

A board-certified ophthalmologist can diagnose AMD during a comprehensive eye exam and discussion of visual symptoms. The early diagnosis of age-related macular edema is imperative to the most successful management of the condition. Doctors use medications or laser therapy to slow the progression of this disease but cannot correct the damage that has occurred.

If you exhibit symptoms of macular degeneration, a thorough eye exam is needed to discover the cause of visual impairment. Our specialists have years of experience treating age-related macular degeneration and can administer care to help preserve your vision for the foreseeable future.

VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA proudly serves patients in several Minnesota cities. To locate an office near you, call (800) VRS-2500.

Vitreo Retinal Surgery

Causes of Blurry Peripheral Vision

Our peripheral vision is our ability to see objects that are to the side of the face without turning our head. It is an expansion of our central vision and necessary for us to engage in life as fully and safely as possible. Sudden peripheral vision loss may feel like tunnel vision, where everything to the side is dark and everything in the central field is quite clear. There are reasons why peripheral vision loss may occur. With prompt attention for this visual disruption, a retinal specialist can identify the cause and, optimally, administer treatment that might restore at least some degree of visual clarity.

Retinal Detachment and Tears

Blurry side vision is one of the primary symptoms of a torn or detached retina. Additional symptoms include sudden spots, flashes, floaters, or a shadow obscuring part of the field of vision. Retinal detachment requires prompt treatment to prevent complete vision loss.

Glaucoma

This progressive eye disease involves elevated pressure within the eye. Persistent pressure on the optic nerve can lead to irreversible damage and vision loss. Because damage occurs slowly, patients have a chance to receive care that can preserve as much visual clarity as possible.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa affects the light-sensitivity of the retina, the part of the eye that transfers light to the brain via the optic nerve. The intense sensitivity of the retina leads to gradual degeneration of this part of the eye. Retinitis pigmentosa is a rare eye disorder that cannot be cured but may be managed with appropriate care from a retina specialist.

A Note About Peripheral Vision Loss

Peripheral vision loss may occur suddenly or gradually. People with glaucoma, for instance, are more likely to notice very subtle changes over time. Regardless of the speed of darkening in the peripheral view, it is beneficial to schedule a comprehensive eye exam right away. A board-certified ophthalmologist or retina specialist can determine the cause of visual changes and provide appropriate care.
In the case of sudden peripheral vision loss, floaters, or flashes, emergency medical attention is needed right away.

Contact Our Retinal Care Specialists

We are proud to serve patients from multiple Minnesota cities, including St. Cloud, St. Paul, Minnesota, and more. To locate an office near you, call (800) VRS-2500.

Discussing Diabetic Eye Disease

This month is when we turn our attention to diabetic eye disease awareness. A chronic health condition related to the body’s ability to use insulin and glucose efficiently, diabetes affects many systems. The effects of diabetes on eye health is one of several important matters for people with this medical problem. The retinal specialists in our practice encourage all diabetic patients to obtain a thorough ophthalmic exam every year, as well as prompt care for any changes in vision.

Common Types of Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes is an influencing factor on the development of potentially serious eye diseases including glaucoma and cataracts. Some of the common problems that we help patients address include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy. Retinopathy is the term that we use to describe damage to the retina, tissue at the back of the eye. The retina has a rich blood supply from tiny blood vessels. These can be damaged over time due to the effects of diabetes, which causes them to leak blood and fluid into the retina. When fluid builds up here, the retina swells. As a result, vision can become cloudy. Diabetic retinopathy cannot be cured. It requires ongoing management to preserve vision.
  • Diabetic macular edema. This condition is a complication of untreated diabetic retinopathy. The macula is at the center of the retina. Fluid accumulation on this tissue affects some of the most detailed vision abilities. Treatment is designed to stop or, optimally, reverse vision loss.

Can Diabetic Eye Disease be Avoided?

If you have diabetes, this is an important question to ask. It is questions like these that are at the heart of events like Diabetes Eye Disease Awareness Month.

Some of the tips provided by eye health experts include:

  • Keep a close watch on cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as these factors also influence eye disease risk. Both can be managed with diet and exercise. If needed, a doctor may prescribe medication to keep levels under control.
  • Undergo a dilated eye exam every year. Some people with diabetes may be advised to maintain more than one exam a year. Each dilated eye exam observes the retina, macula, and optic nerve for signs of damage in supporting blood vessels. The sooner that abnormalities are found, the more effective treatment will be.
  • Pregnant women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are encouraged to protect eye health by following a low-sugar, high-fiber diet.

To see a retinal specialist in Minnesota, call (800) VRS-2500. VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA has offices in Minneapolis, Plymouth, Edina, and other cities.

Cloudy Vision or Blurry Vision? There is a Difference!

When a person doesn’t see as well as they used to, the common ways they describe their vision are “blurry” and “cloudy.” Often, the terms are used interchangeably, at least by patients. Doctors know that there are unique differences between cloudy vision and blurry vision. They also know that the causes of either blurriness or cloudiness can vary widely. Because your doctor relies somewhat on your description of what you are experiencing, it is important to know how to accurately describe your situation. Here, we’ll provide some assistance.

What is blurry vision?

When you look through a camera lens to snap a photo, there may be an instant during which objects are out of focus. Using an old-school camera, one could manually alter the focus of objects in their frame. The out-of-focus sensation is what we describe as blurry. Objects may be blurry when you look straight at them or when they sit to one side or the other of your peripheral vision.

Blurry vision may be a sign of:

  • Infection
  • Retinopathy
  • Nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Injury or abrasion to the cornea
  • Corneal scarring
  • Optic neuritis

What is cloudy vision?

Just like a cloudy day, cloudy vision feels as though you are looking through fog or a dirty window. When vision is cloudy, there may be an urge to blink or wipe the eyes to remove the “film.” When a person develops cloudy vision, they may also experience additional symptoms, such as:

  • Double vision
  • Halos or glare around lights
  • Poor night vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Cloudy vision may be a sign of:
  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Inflammation or infection
  • Dirty or damaged contact lenses

Both cloudy and blurry vision may be caused by potentially serious eye conditions. If either symptom persists or becomes severe very quickly, a comprehensive eye exam should be scheduled right away.

VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA proudly serves multiple Minnesota cities with friendly, experienced care. To schedule a consultation with one of our retina specialists, call (800) VRS-2500 to find an office near you.