What are diseases of the retina and vitreous?

Your eyes are an important organ in your body and your retina helps process information to help you see colors, shapes and movements. Diseases of the retina can affect how your visual information is processed and can lead to distorted or absent vision. Some of the more common retinal diseases treated by our physicians at Horizon Eye Care are outlined below.

Retina Center at Horizon Eye Care

How can you tell if you have a retinal and vitreous disease?

Horizon Eye Care surgeons use the latest technology – including digital photography, ultrasound and laser therapy – to diagnose and treat retinal and vitreous diseases to preserve our patients’ sight.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people older than 60, affecting more than 13 million people. Although these numbers are expected to triple during the next 25 years, most people are unaware of AMD or the steps they can take to reduce the risk.

AMD affects the retina, the part of the eye responsible for sharp, clear vision. AMD causes a blurring or blank spot in the center of visual images. This may make it difficult to drive, read or even recognize faces.

AMD occurs gradually and worsens over time. During the initial stages – known as “Dry” AMD – the effects are milder and can result in loss of color definition and detail. If the disease progresses to the more severe form – “Wet” AMD – central portions of vision are lost and, ultimately, legal (but not complete) blindness can occur.

Because the damage that causes AMD is cumulative and the retina becomes less able to recover from light-induced stress as we get older, the risk of developing AMD increases as we age. Other high risk factors for developing AMD include:

  • Being female
  • Smoking
  • Poor physical health: Obesity, inactivity, high blood pressure
  • Light-colored skin and eyes
  • Family history of AMD

Treatment options are limited, but measures that can be taken to significantly slow the progression of AMD include:

  • Avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke
  • Maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish
  • Taking vitamin supplements recommended by your ophthalmologist
  • Keeping a healthy weight and controlling blood pressure
  • Increasing intake of foods or supplements containing antioxidants
  • Regular exercise to maintain cardiovascular health

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy is a potentially blinding complication of diabetes that damages the eye’s retina and affects half of all Americans diagnosed with diabetes. Proper treatment helps people with the advanced form of diabetic retinopathy have a 90 percent chance of saving their vision.

Symptoms with your vision may not be noticeable initially, but they have a tendency to get worse over the years. Notify your eye doctor if you notice any sudden change in vision, such as:

  • Cobwebs
  • Spots
  • Decreased vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Shadows or a dark curtain in your vision
  • Visual distortion
  • Hair-like strands in front of your eyes
  • Severe pain

Retinal Tear or Detachment

A retinal detachment occurs when the retina is lifted or pulled from its normal position. If not promptly treated, a retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss. Retinal detachments can occur at any age, but are more common in people over the age of 60. The risk factors for developing a retinal detachment include:

  • Myopia or nearsightedness
  • Eye inflammation or injury
  • Prior eye surgery
  • Family history of retinal detachments
  • Other eye diseases

In some cases, there may be small areas of the retina that are torn open. These areas, called retinal tears or retinal breaks, can lead to retinal detachment. Notify your eye doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms of a retinal detachment or retinal tear:

  • Sudden or gradual increase in floaters
  • Flashes of light
  • Appearance of a veil or curtain over the field of vision

Posterior Vitreous Detachment

Posterior vitreous detachment is the natural, spontaneous result of the vitreous body turning from a gel to a liquid. The middle of the eye is filled with a solid gel, known as the vitreous. With increasing age the center of the gel slowly liquefies. At a certain point, the gel becomes so liquid that it pulls away from the back of the eye. Vitreous detachment typically occurs between ages 50-70, but the prevalence of this process increases with:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Inflammatory disease
  • Trauma
  • Aphakia or the absence of a lens

The symptoms of posterior vitreous detachment include:

  • Flashes of light
  • New floaters in one’s vision

Most of the time this process occurs without harming the eye, but sometimes the retina can be damaged by the vitreous pulling force. Because of this risk, an eye care specialist should urgently evaluate all individuals experiencing these symptoms. You should be examined by an eye care specialist as soon as possible if you experience these symptoms.

View videos about retinal conditions

Make an appointment

Schedule an exam at Horizon Eye Care to determine whether you have a retinal or vitreous disease, and your best eye treatment. Online, use Horizon Eye Care’s Patient Portal. Or call 704-365-0555 during regular business hours (Monday – Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Friday 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.).


Strutha C. Rouse, II, MDSteven J. Ryder, MD
W. Riley Stroman, MDFrederick H.D. Weidman, III, MD

Retina Videos from Horizon Eye Care