Retinal Conditions


Vitreous Detachments & Floaters

A posterior vitreous detachment occurs when the vitreous gel that occupies the inside of the eye separates from the retina. In most cases, the vitreous separates from the retina cleanly without causing any harm. Sometimes, as the vitreous gel separates from the retina, it pulls on the retina causing a tear, and in some instances a retinal detachment.

Symptoms

Floaters and flashes are typical symptoms that occur during the evolution of a posterior vitreous detachment. Floaters occur when tiny amounts of the vitreous gel clump together. These clumps can interfere with vision. They can appear as various shapes and sizes, taking the form of specks, strings, or cobwebs. Flashes occur when the vitreous gel pulls on the retina and appear as lightning streaks or flashing lights in the peripheral vision.

Causes

The normal aging process is the most common cause of a posterior vitreous detachment. Other causes are nearsightedness, history of inflammatory eye disorders, or history of intraocular surgery. Migraine headaches may cause flashes, known as a migraine aura, but can be differentiated from a vitreous detachment during a thorough eye examination.

Treatments

When a person suddenly experiences floaters and/or flashes, a prompt retinal exam is essential in order to rule out a retinal tear or retinal detachment. Both conditions require surgical intervention. If no tear or detachment is present, treatment is not required. Typically, floaters are harmless and with time become less noticeable.

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Uveitis

The uvea is the middle layer of the eye located between the retina and sclera which contains the iris, ciliary body and choroid. When this layer becomes inflamed, the condition is called uveitis. The condition can affect patients of any age group, present with a variety of visual symptoms, affect one or both eyes, and have an acute or chronic course.

Symptoms

There are three different types of uveitis and are classified by the area of the uvea that is affected. Anterior uveitis is characterized by inflammation of the iris. Intermediate uveitis is characterized by inflammation of the ciliary body. Posterior uveitis is characterized by inflammation of the choroid. Patients with anterior uveitis experience symptoms of pain, redness and light sensitivity while patients with intermediate and posterior uveitis usually have painless blurring of vision.

Causes

Uveitis can be caused by internal or external conditions ranging from autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and sarcoidosis as well as bacterial, viral or fungal infections. If an underlying disease is suspected to be responsible for the inflammation, a medical workup may be initiated in order to isolate the cause. In many cases a cause cannot be identified despite a thorough investigation.

Treatments

Treatment options are based on the type and underlying cause of the condition. In cases of non-infectious uveitis, anti-inflammatory medications including steroids in the form of eye drops, oral medications or injections can be used to reduce the inflammation. In cases of infectious uveitis, antibiotics may be prescribed to eliminate the responsible organism.

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