Retinopathy is any disease concerning the retina. The retina is at the back of the eye and receives images through the pupil. These images are then sent to the brain, which is when we actually “see” the image. The retina is viewed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist using an ophthalmoscope through the pupil. However, there are many types of retinopathy caused by many different things and some are more common than others.
By far, diabetic retinopathy is the most common, especially as the numbers of those with diabetes continues to rise due to current lifestyles. There two basic types of diabetic retinopathy: proliferative and no proliferative. Non-proliferative retinopathy means that no additional blood vessels are being formed which reduces the chances of vision loss. Proliferative retinopathy means that as some blood vessels are blocked off, new ones that are abnormal are being formed. This can lead to permanent vision loss. Non-proliferative retinopathy also needs to be monitored, as it can become proliferative.
Is it just a myth that your eye doctor can tell you that you have a health issue that doesn’t just concern your eyes? It is true, especially with hypertension but also with some other vascular diseases. Changes in the blood vessels in the retina can signal the same changes in vessels elsewhere in the body. Hypertension should be monitored and controlled so it doesn’t have a long-lasting effect on your vision, including retinopathy.
Retinal Vein Occlusion
An occlusion is also known as a stroke. While many, if not most, people are familiar with a stroke in the brain, these occlusions can happen elsewhere, including the eyes. A Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO) is a stroke in the main vein in the retina while a Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO) is a stroke that happens in the blood vessels that branch out from the main vein. Occlusions like this are caused by blood clots that prevent the flow of oxygenated blood to the retina and is a common form of retinopathy. These can be caused by problems such as hypertension or diabetes, but certain types of glaucoma are a risk factor as well.
Retinopathy can also be caused by cancer or autoimmune disease. The generalized term for this is paraneoplastic retinopathy. Cancer-associated Retinopathy, also known as CAR, is a retinal disease that is caused by cancer elsewhere in the body, which affects the eye through a change in the blood, structure of blood vessels, or other changes that occur in the immune system. Autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus, can also cause changes in the retina, leading to retinopathy.
Retinopathy may not take your vision, or affect it permanently if you undergo regular eye exams to check for changes and you follow any medical recommendations given to you. If you are concerned about the health of your eyes, be sure to see the Family Diagnostic Clinic for regular check-ups. As you can see, sometimes the health of your eyes depends on the health of your body, so be sure to take care of yourself with regular check-ups as well.