Myopia, hypermetropia, presbyopia and amblyopia, we’ve heard of them all. They are the more general eye issues that many people have to deal with quite commonly on the grounds of visionary complications. However, once in a while people fall victim to some vision issues that are not very common, but can cause quite an impact on the quality of vision once a person’s eyes are inflicted by the disease. One such vision complication that can be categorized as such is retinitis. This complication of the eyes affects the retina of the eyes as you may have very well guessed.
While retinitis is not a very common condition in Sri Lanka, it is also not unheard of and can cause damage to eyesight. Therefore it is quite useful to stay informed about the disease as ignorance is not always blissful.
Dr. M. Wijetunge, Retired Consultant Eye Surgeon of the Ragama Teaching Hospital, provided an insightful elucidation on retinitis for this week’s edition of the Health Capsule.
“Retinitis is the inflammation of the retina of the eyes. The condition causes a significant impact and damage to the retina and thereby affects vision,” said Dr. Wijetunge. The retina is the innermost area of the eye which is also the nervous tissue layer of the eye. It consists of mainly light sensitive cells i.e. rods and cones and pigment cells. The light sensitive cells are stimulated by light that gets focused on the retina. Consequently this causes the rods and cones to send signals to the brain through the optic nerve which is how we perceive vision of objects around us. It is quite comprehensive that the retina is a very important part of our eyes. What happens when the retina is victimized by an infection? Of course the answer is that visionary complications will arise.
Types of retinitis
Speaking of the causes that lead to retinitis, Dr. Wijetunge stated that sometimes retinitis occurs without any particular cause, but sometimes there are general causes depending on the type of retinitis. “Retinitis comes in many forms. Retinitis could be congenital. There is a group of eye diseases that are genetically inherited. This is known as retinitis pigmentosa. Parasitic infections also make way for retinitis. Viral infections and bacterial infections could cause retinitis. There is a form of retinitis called neuroretinitis which affects both the retina and the optic nerve. Optic neuritis can also add as a causative factor responsible for retinitis,” he added.
Dr. Wijetunge also explained that viral infections like HIV which causes a drop in immunity makes the body susceptible to even the mildest forms of infections. Therefore retinitis can easily be contracted by such a person. “The cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a herpes virus. It usually causes no harm. When the virus infects a person with a weak immune system, it can cause retinitis in the patient,” he added.
The symptoms that appear are mainly negative impacts on vision. “Patient may experience reduced vision and vision loss. There may be a slight pain experienced. The degree of vision loss depends on the infection and the area of the retina infected by the condition,” stated the eye surgeon. Certain conditions of retinitis, retinitis pigmentosa for instance, can lead to complete vision loss. The rate at which the vision is reduced will differ from one patient to another. Some forms of retinitis may include symptoms such as blurred vision, loss of night vision, loss of peripheral vision and tunnel vision.
The condition is diagnosed by clinical methods when the eye is subjected to examination. “Conditions like vasculitis and macular edema can lead the diagnosis towards retinitis. Some cases of retinitis can be treated while some other forms cannot be cured.
The treatment too depends on the form of retinitis. Congenital retinitis such as retinitis pigmentosa cannot be cured whereas conditions of retinitis that arise due to parasitic infections, bacterial and viral infections can be cured by medicine,” explicated Dr. Wijetunge. It should be understood that retinitis is an ailment that affects the nervous tissue of the eyes. The damage done cannot easily be treated.
According to Dr. Wijetunge, the conditions of the retinitis infection caused by microorganisms can be cured through antiviral drugs, antibacterial drugs, steroids and even injections. Unfortunately there are no methods of treatment for the incurable conditions of retinitis.
Keeping retinitis at bay
As terms of prevention there is not much that can be done except just follow proper care for the eye. Retinitis is a condition that can strike without any warning and it is after examinations that the condition can be diagnosed.
“Congenital cases of retinitis can be reduced through careful examinations of a couple before marriage so as to prevent the genetic complications that lead to the disease.
Prevention of marriages between relatives is a helpful step in this. Prevention of AIDS reduces the possibility of the retinitis inflammations from inflicting upon a person. In general maintaining a strong immunity and eating healthy diets will help keep you fit. Consumption of green leafy vegetables and yellow vegetables and fruits will help maintain a healthy eyesight,” he concluded.