Retinal Diseases

Hereditary Eye Diseases

There are numerous eye diseases that patients can inherit from their parents. These diseases can affect the eye muscles, cornea, lens and retina. They may cause difficulty focusing, vision loss or even blindness. Some of these conditions are present at birth, while others do not develop until much later in life.

Dr. Brown may recommend regular eye exams for patients whose parents were affected by a hereditary eye disease, in order to diagnose any potential conditions as early as possible. Patients with hereditary retinal diseases should be examined to identify conditions that are associated with their disease or may make its prognosis worse. Treatment of associated conditions may help to prolong vision.

One of the most common hereditary eye diseases is retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that destroys the light-sensitive cells within the retina. Patients with retinitis pigmentosa suffer from a gradual degeneration of the rod and cone cells within the retina. The rods and cone cells are the receptors that capture and process light. As these cells deteriorate, peripheral and night vision decreases.

Although there is no cure for this condition, patients with a high risk of retinitis pigmentosa are often able to detect the disease early and manage it as effectively as possible.

The future is bright for patients with hereditary diseases. A number of research protocols are underway to identify effective treatments to prolong the life of retinal cells or to block the effect of an abnormal gene. Gene therapy trials have already demonstrated proof of concept that in some conditions, replacing an abnormal gene can help improve a patient’s ability to see and function in their daily lives.

For many hereditary diseases, the underlying gene defect has been identified. Dr. Brown may recommend genetic testing in order to properly classify a patient’s condition and identify the research protocol that would be most appropriate.

Uveitis

Uveitis is an often chronic condition that involves inflammation of the uvea. The uvea is the middle layer of the eye, which contains the iris, ciliary body and choroid and is located between the retina and sclera (white of the eye). This condition is most common in patients between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, and may be caused by a viral, fungal or bacterial infection. In many cases of uveitis, the cause is unknown.

There are three different types of uveitis, classified by the area of the uvea that is affects:

  • Anterior Uveitis – inflammation of just the iris or the iris and ciliary body
  • Intermediate Uveitis – inflammation of the ciliary body
  • Posterior Uveitis – inflammation of the choroid

Patients with anterior uveitis, the most common type, are often only affected in one eye, and may experience mild to strong pain, redness, light sensitivity and blurred vision. Intermediate and posterior uveitis are usually painless and may cause blurred vision and floaters in both eyes.

Most cases of uveitis are treated through steroids in the form of eye drops, pills or injections to reduce inflammation in the eye. A new, FDA-approved treatment called Retisert may be used to treat chronic posterior uveitis by placing a drug implant in the eye that delivers medication to the eye as needed for over two years. The type and cause of your condition will be used to determine the best treatment option for your individual case.

Central Serous Chorioretinopathy

Central serous chorioretinopathy (CSC) is a retinal condition that involves a buildup of fluid in the choroid, the membrane located behind the retina. As fluid accumulates, it can seep in between the layers of the retina and cause them to separate, leaving patients with blurred vision or poor night vision. This condition is most common in men between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, although women can also be affected.

Although the cause of this condition is unknown, it is believed that patients who acquire this disease have likely been exposed to certain treatments or medical problems that triggered CSC. Possible triggers may include steroid medication, pregnancy, antibiotics, nasal allergies, asthma and high blood pressure.

Patients with CSC may experience blurred or dimmed vision, blind spots, distorted shapes and a decrease in visual sharpness. This can greatly interfere with reading, driving and other normal activities, and may affect a patient’s quality of life throughout the duration of the condition.

Most cases of CSC go away on their own within a few months, but patients should be monitored closely to ensure that the condition improves and no complications develop. If needed, laser treatment may be used to speed the healing process.

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