Damage to the small blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive membrane at the back of the eye

  • Age, gender, genetics, and lifestyle as risk factors depend on the cause

Some long-standing diseases can damage small blood vessels throughout the body. If the blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive membrane at the back of the eye) are affected, the damage is known as retinopathy. Retinal damage varies according to the underlying disorder but can include leakage of blood from damaged vessels, loss of blood flow to some areas, and abnormal development of new blood vessels. Retinopathy may cause loss of vision.

One of the most common causes of retinopathy is diabetes mellitus (see Diabetic retinopathy). The condition can also occur as a result of high blood pressure (see Hypertension), although vision is not usually affected in this case. Less frequently, retinopathy may be caused by AIDS (see HIV infection and AIDS), oxygen therapy in premature babies (see Problems of the premature baby), or by sickle-cell disease. Usually, only the underlying disease is treated. However, in diabetic retinopathy, laser treatment of the retina itself (see Laser surgery for retinopathy) can save vision.

Test: Fluorescein Angiography

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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