Vitreoretinal diseases are conditions that impact the retina and the vitreous of the eye. The retina is the layer in the back of the eye that focuses light and transmits information to the brain through the optic nerve, and the vitreous humor is a jelly-like material in the middle of the eye.
As you age, this substance can thin and may detach from the retina. The retina can tear and become vulnerable to conditions that interrupt, diminish, or eliminate your sight.
Vitreoretinal surgery refers to a range of operations performed on either the retina or the vitreous. During vitreoretinal surgery, a retinal surgeon removes the vitreous and then performs necessary work on the retina. The vitreous may be replaced with oil, gas, or an air bubble. These natural materials hold the retina in place as it heals from surgery, and won’t irritate the eye.
After the procedure, your body will naturally absorb air and gas, but your eye doctor must remove the oil.
The recovery time for vitreoretinal surgery can take several weeks or even months, depending on the condition and the procedure performed. Here are some conditions that may need vitreoretinal surgery.
The macula is the center of the retina. This 5-millimeter group of cells is what we use for the majority of our sight.
The brain processes information from these cells and turns them into images. A macular hole occurs when the vitreous fluid in the eye detaches from the retina with age, but pulls a small piece of the macula with it. This leaves a circular piece of missing retina in the very center of the visual field. The most common symptom of a macular hole is a decline in central vision, causing blurriness, distortions, and a dark circle in central vision. Reading can be difficult, and objects in front can appear wavy.
Full-thickness macular holes almost always must be treated, or permanent vision loss may occur.
Vitreoretinal surgery can heal the macular hole and improve sight. The success rate for these surgeries is usually very high.
Diabetes causes damage to various parts of the body due to a problem with processing blood sugar. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina, causing them to swell, leak, and close, which can block blood from passing through.
These changes can create fluid leaks in the macula, called macular edema; or they may cause bleeding in the eyeball, called a vitreous or retinal hemorrhage.
Some people won’t show any symptoms during the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Others will exhibit vision difficulties that change day-to-day. People with diabetes must get regular eye exams. Frequent check-ups will help diagnose diabetic retinopathy.
Diagnosing diabetic retinopathy in its early stages may prevent it from becoming severe, and managing your blood sugar can help to prevent diabetic retinopathy from progressing.
Eye doctors may treat severe cases using injections or laser treatments. Vitreoretinal surgery is used to address retinal detachments and may help encourage the retina to heal and to recover function.
A retinal detachment is when the retina, the lining in the inside of the eye, detaches from the eyeball. This can occur due to age-related changes in the vitreous that may cause tears in the retina, or from trauma. Family history, near-sightedness (difficulty seeing far away without glasses), and history of other eye problems are risk factors.
Symptoms include suddenly seeing stars or shadows in your vision. You may also notice random floaters that interrupt your sight. Eye doctors diagnose retinal detachments by dilating the pupil with medicated drops and carefully examining the retina.
Detached retinas can sometimes be treated in the office, but usually need vitreoretinal surgery to repair the problem.
Some eyes may develop a condition called macular pucker. This condition happens when the vitreous shrinks and some fibrous scar tissue develops on the surface of the retina.
This buildup of scar tissue is not flexible and can pucker or wrinkle the retina. Some people have no symptoms, while others experience blurriness or distortion.
Most macular pucker patients will not need treatment. People adjust to slightly reduced sight.
In other cases, eye doctors treat severe cases with a procedure called a vitrectomy. During a vitrectomy, the surgeon will remove the vitreous and scar tissue.
They will then replace the vitreous with salt water, allowing the retina to heal. Patients often have 50 percent better sight after undergoing the procedure.
Central Florida Retina has over 40 years of experience addressing retina conditions. Our skilled team treats retinal detachments and tears, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vascular disease, and macular degeneration.
Looking for more information about how we can help? Schedule an appointment at Central Florida Retina in Orlando, FL, and start your journey to better eye health today!