How Retinal Conditions Are Treated
Measuring between 30mm and 40mm in diameter and half a millimeter in thickness, the delicate structure of the retina belies its complexity. In spite of its diminutive size, the retina is a complex instrument comprising 200 million photoreceptive neurons. These neurons transmit light signals that we receive through the lenses of our eyes and transmit them directly to the brain, where the light is organized and interpreted into an image. Because of its tininess, intricate structure, and powerful function, treating retinal conditions requires highly sophisticated techniques and equipment.
One of the most common forms of retinal treatments is intravitreal injections using anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications. These drugs are used to treat a wide range of conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and retinal vein occlusion.
Anti-VEGFs help halt the growth and leakage of abnormal blood vessels that have formed under the retina. They also prevent new abnormal blood vessels from developing. Some of the most well-known examples of anti-VEGFs include Avastin, Eylea, and Lucentis. Before anti-VEGF injections are administered, the eyes are numbed using special anesthetic eye drops so that the patient will feel little to no discomfort.
In a vitrectomy procedure, vitreous gel from the inside of the eye is removed. Vitrectomies are typically performed for conditions in which the vitreous gel has adhered to the retina. If the vitreous gel recedes while stuck to the retina, the retina could develop a tear or become fully detached. Other conditions that are caused by issues with the vitreous and retina include macular holes and epiretinal membranes. At the end of the procedure, the vitreous may be replaced with gas, air, silicone oil, or a saline solution.
Photodynamic therapy is typically used to treat abnormal blood vessels that are associated with wet AMD. At the beginning of the procedure, the retina specialist injects a special light-sensitive medicine into a vein. The medicine accumulates in any abnormal blood vessels in the macula. The patient is then given anesthetic eye drops and special contact lenses before the surgeon shines a laser into the affected eye. The laser triggers the light-sensitive medicine to form blood clots in the abnormal blood vessels, effectively sealing them and preventing them from leaking. This can help stave off progressive vision loss.
Scleral buckle surgery is a common technique for repairing retinal tears and detachments. During the procedure, a flexible band of silicone is attached to the sclera (which is the white part of the eye). This pushes the sclera against the retina, which keeps the retina from pulling out of place.
Although these are some of the more common forms of treatment for retinal conditions, they are by no means the only techniques available. Furthermore, in addition to all the existing treatment modalities, clinical research plays a vital role in developing new or improved retina treatments and therapies. To learn more about retina care in the Austin, Texas, area, contact Austin Retina Associates today.