What’s Wrong With This Picture?

A nationwide survey published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that 88 percent of Americans believe good eyesight is important to overall health. And nearly 50 percent believe losing their eyesight would have a greater impact on their everyday lives than losing a limb, their memory, hearing or speech.1

According to this same survey, however, many people aren’t aware of major eye diseases that can impact vision or even lead to blindness.1 Some of these diseases, like wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy, among others, affect the part of the eye called the retina, a thin layer of light-sensitive cells and nerve cells located in the back of the eye that allow you to see.2

Different Conditions, Similar Symptoms

Retinal diseases are caused by unique changes in the eye. When a person has wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow in the part of the retina called the macula, which is responsible for clear, central vision. These new blood vessels can break and leak blood and/or fluid into the macula causing vision problems.2

Myopic choroidal neovascularization (myopic CNV) is a complication of severe nearsightedness, or pathological myopia. When a person has severe nearsightedness, the eye grows too long from back to front, which leads to areas of the retina that are prone to breaking. As a result, new, abnormal blood vessels can grow directly into the retina that leak blood and/or fluid into the retina, causing damage and vision loss.3

In diabetic eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema (DME), existing blood vessels can become damaged and leak blood and/or fluid into the retina. In advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, new, fragile blood vessels can form in the retina which can easily break, leading to bleeding and, ultimately, result in vision distortion or loss.2

Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) occurs when veins in the eye become blocked, preventing blood and fluid from passing through its normal way out of the eye. The blockage can cause the veins to swell and leak blood and/or fluid into the retina, damaging the cells that maintain our vision.4,5

While the biological mechanisms of these retinal diseases are unique, some of the symptoms that they cause—shown above— are common among each of them, and can have a major impact on daily life.

Getting an annual eye exam is the best way to detect any changes in vision. A dilated retinal examination will help to diagnose any retinal diseases. If you’d like more information on these and other retinal diseases, visit www.PreventBlindness.org.


1. Adrienne WS, Bressler NM, Ffolkes S, et al. “Public Attitudes About Eye and Vision Health.” JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016;134(10):1111-1118.

2. Mayo Clinic. Retinal Diseases. Accessed at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/retinal-diseases/symptoms-causes/syc-20355825. October 31, 2017.

3. National Eye Institute. Facts About Myopia. Available at: https://nei.nih.gov/health/errors/myopia. Accessed October 31, 2017.

4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Central Retinal Vein Occlusion. Available at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-central-retinal-vein-occlusion. Accessed October 31, 2017.

5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion. Available at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-branch-retinal-vein-occlusion. October 31, 2017.