The Silent Thief: Retinal Diseases and the Fight to Save Your Sight

While aging naturally weakens our vision, retinal diseases like AMD and diabetic retinopathy pose a significant threat, often leading to central vision loss and impacting daily activities. Early detection through regular eye exams is crucial to manage these conditions and preserve sight.

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The Silent Thief: Retinal Diseases and the Fight to Save Your Sight
6 Min Read June 10th, 2024

Millions of Americans face a hidden threat to their vision: retinal diseases. The risk increases with age, so you may already know someone, including an older parent, who may suffer from one of these conditions and experience the impact on their daily life.

These diseases affect the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye responsible for converting light into signals the brain interprets as sight. When retinal diseases strike, they can gradually steal your vision, often without any noticeable pain. Understanding these diseases, their impact, and the available treatments is crucial for protecting your independence and maintaining a good quality of life.

A Spectrum of Threats

Retinal diseases encompass a broad spectrum of conditions, each with its own cause and course.

Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading culprit, affecting an estimated 11 million Americans over 50, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). AMD causes the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp central vision, to deteriorate. This can lead to difficulties with tasks like reading, recognizing faces, and driving.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has two main forms: wet and dry. Dry AMD is the more common type, affecting about 85-90% of all AMD cases. It develops slowly over time as drusen, deposits of waste products, accumulate in the macula. This gradual thinning of the macula leads to blurry central vision and difficulty seeing fine details. While dry AMD can significantly impact daily activities, it usually progresses at a slower pace.

Wet AMD, on the other hand, is a more aggressive form of the disease. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the macula, leaking fluid and blood. This rapid deterioration can cause distorted central vision, straight lines appearing wavy, and even sudden vision loss. Early detection and treatment are crucial for wet AMD because it can progress quickly and lead to permanent vision loss.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is another major threat, affecting nearly 10 million Americans with diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina, leading to leakage and bleeding.

Diabetic retinopathy is a stealthy thief of sight, often progressing without noticeable symptoms in its early stages. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause severe vision loss and even blindness.

Over time, high blood sugar levels damage the delicate blood vessels in the retina, causing them to weaken and leak fluid or blood. This leakage can blur vision and distort central sight, making activities like reading or driving difficult.

In advanced stages, abnormal new blood vessels can grow on the retina, further threatening vision. These new vessels are fragile and prone to bleeding, which can cause sudden and severe vision loss.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-aged adults, highlighting the importance of managing blood sugar levels and getting regular eye exams for people with diabetes. Early detection allows for prompt treatment with options like laser therapy or injections to prevent vision loss and maintain a good quality of life.

Other retinal diseases include:

  • Retinal detachments: When the retina separates from the underlying tissue, vision loss can be rapid and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Inherited retinal disorders: These genetic conditions affect younger individuals and can cause progressive vision loss.
  • Macular holes: These small breaks in the macula can cause blurry central vision.

Beyond Blurry Vision: The Daily Toll

The impact of retinal diseases extends far beyond blurry vision. As these conditions progress, everyday activities become increasingly challenging. Imagine the frustration of being unable to read your favorite book, navigate stairs safely, or even cook a meal due to impaired vision.

This loss of independence can lead to social isolation, depression, and a decline in overall well-being.

Increased Risk of Long-Term Care

The vision loss associated with retinal diseases can significantly increase the risk of needing long-term care. Simple tasks like bathing, dressing, and managing medications become difficult, potentially requiring assistance from family members or paid caregivers. This can place a significant burden on loved ones and strain financial resources.

Vision loss is a significant risk factor for needing long-term care services. As sight deteriorates, daily tasks like bathing, dressing, and medication management become more challenging. This can lead to a loss of independence and a greater need for assistance from family members or paid caregivers.

Hope on the Horizon: Treatments for a Brighter Future

The good news is that advancements in medical technology offer a growing arsenal of treatments for retinal diseases. Early detection and intervention are key to preserving vision and preventing complications.

Treatments like laser therapy, anti-VEGF injections, steroid injections, vitrectomy, and even groundbreaking cell therapy offer hope for many patients.

Here are five promising treatments that have proven effective in combating various retinal conditions:

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy employs concentrated light beams to treat retinal tears and detachments, sealing tissues back into place. This precise method minimizes damage to surrounding tissues, making it a highly effective intervention for preventing vision loss from escalating retinal issues.

Anti-VEGF Injections

Anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) injections target proteins contributing to abnormal blood vessel growth. These injections are pivotal in treating conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy, which are prevalent among seniors.

Steroid Injections

Steroid injections offer an alternative route to manage retinal diseases by reducing inflammation and swelling. This treatment can particularly benefit individuals with diabetic macular edema (DME), helping restore and maintain vision.

Vitrectomy

Vitrectomy involves the removal of the vitreous gel from the eye, allowing surgeons to access and repair retinal damage. This procedure is often recommended for severe cases of retinal detachment and can prevent permanent vision loss.

Cell Therapy

Cell therapy is a groundbreaking treatment that repairs or replaces damaged retinal cells. By introducing healthy cells into the retina, this cell therapy can potentially restore vision in individuals affected by hereditary and nonhereditary retinal diseases. Quality control is essential for developing these cell therapies, given their novelty and complexity. However, with detailed development, cell therapy promises hope for people experiencing vision impairment.

Protecting Your Sight: The Importance of Early Detection

Regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist are vital for early detection of retinal diseases. These exams can identify early signs of trouble before vision loss becomes severe. If you are at higher risk for retinal diseases due to age, diabetes, or family history, scheduling regular eye exams is even more important.

Taking Action for Your Vision

If you experience any changes in your vision, such as blurred vision, distorted central vision, seeing floaters (tiny specks that float across your vision), or sudden flashes of light, seek immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and maintaining good vision.

By understanding the risks of retinal diseases, taking preventative measures like regular eye exams, and seeking prompt medical attention at the first sign of trouble, you can take control of your eye health and protect your precious gift of sight.

Can You Obtain LTC Insurance with Pre-Existing Vision Issues?

Every insurance company has its own underwriting guidelines. Generally, if a pre-existing vision issue is already impacting your independence and you need help with everyday living activities, it would be impossible to get coverage in most situations.

However, other vision issues. If treated successfully and is not progressing, a vision problem should not prevent you from getting an LTC policy. Seek assistance from an independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you determine your options. However, it is suggested that you do not wait until you have a chronic health issue to get coverage.

Vision Issues with Aging

Many of us take our vision for granted. However, aging brings many vision issues. Our eyes naturally change as we age, leading to some common but treatable vision issues. Most eye issues are much more benign than retinal diseases discussed above.

One frequent culprit is presbyopia, often nicknamed "nearsightedness of old age." This condition makes focusing on close objects like reading material or phone screens difficult. The good news is that presbyopia can be easily corrected with reading glasses, bifocals, or progressive lenses.

Another age-related vision issue is floaters, those tiny specks or cobweb-like shapes that drift across your field of vision. While they can be annoying, floaters are usually harmless. However, a sudden increase in floaters or flashes of light might indicate a retinal tear and require immediate medical attention.

Glaucoma is another eye condition that can develop with age. This thief of sight often has no early warning signs and damages the optic nerve, gradually reducing peripheral vision. Regular eye exams with pressure checks are crucial for early detection and treatment with medication or surgery to prevent vision loss.

Cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye, are also a common concern for older adults. They can cause blurry vision, faded colors, and difficulty seeing at night. Fortunately, cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure that can restore clear vision.

Awareness of these age-related vision changes and scheduling regular eye exams ensure the clearest possible vision. Early detection and treatment can often prevent vision loss and keep your world vibrant and clear.

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

Editor's Note

No one likes to think about getting older, but planning for the future is a gift to yourself and your loved ones. Aging is a reality, and as you age, your health, body, and mind will decline. Aging often means you will need help with daily activities or supervision because of a memory decline.

You're living your best life now, but what happens when your health challenges arise later? How does your need for long-term care impact your family and finances? Envisioning your future needs helps you make informed decisions now.

  • Consider the costs: Long-term care, whether at home or in a facility, can be expensive. Planning ahead can help avoid financial strain on you and your family.

How Much Does Long-Term Care Services Cost Where You Live?

Here's how Long-Term Care Insurance steps in:

  • Financial Security: LTC Insurance provides tax-free money to pay for professional caregivers in your home or a facility. This eases the financial burden and allows your family to focus on being loved ones, not caregivers.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing your future care is covered gives you peace of mind and allows you to maintain your independence for longer.

Here are the key benefits of LTC Insurance:

  • Protects your income and assets: LTC costs can deplete your savings quickly. An LTC policy helps safeguard your hard-earned money and assets for your future and your loved ones' inheritance.
  • Preserves your lifestyle: Staying in your own home or transitioning to a comfortable facility like assisted living allows you to maintain your desired lifestyle.
  • Guarantees access to quality care: LTC Insurance ensures you have access to the care you need when you need it.
  • Reduces family stress: By not having to provide or manage your care, your family can focus on emotional support and quality time with you.

What Is Long-Term Care Insurance, and What Does it Cover?

Take control of your future and protect yourself and your loved ones with Long-Term Care Insurance. It's an integral part of your retirement plan, promoting your independence and your family's peace of mind.

The ideal time to get coverage is when you still enjoy good health. Most people acquire coverage in their 40s or 50s, but affordable options can be found in your 60s or later if you enjoy fairly good health.

Be sure to get assistance from a qualified and independent LTC Insurance specialist who will match your age, health, and other factors, and shop the market to find affordable options. The LTC Insurance specialist will show you accurate quotes from all the top-rated insurance companies that offer long-term care solutions.

Finding Quality Care for a Loved One is Easier Than Ever

Figuring out long-term care options can feel overwhelming, but resources are available to help you navigate the process. The LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory is a free online tool designed to streamline your search for qualified caregivers, senior communities, and long-term care facilities in your area.

Imagine spending hours researching caregivers and facilities only to find limited information or outdated listings. The LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory simplifies this task by offering a comprehensive and constantly updated database. You can search by location, filter by specific needs (such as memory care or in-home care), and even read reviews from other families. This allows you to compare different options and find the best fit for your loved one's individual requirements and your preferences.

With the LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory, which has over 80,000 listings available, as your guide, you can feel confident and empowered when making important decisions about your loved one's long-term care.

If you're a care provider, you can claim your free listing or upgrade to enhance visibility through the LTC News Directory Business Portal.  

LTC NEWS offers assistance in processing claims from any Long-Term Care Insurance policy. Partnering with Amada Senior Care, a renowned in-home healthcare agency, LTC NEWS ensures your loved ones receive quality care services without worrying about obtaining the benefits from an LTC policy. There is no cost or obligation for this service.

Experience peace of mind knowing you can access quality care services when you need them most - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

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