Saturday, January 10, 2009

Retinal Detachment and Sickle Cell Disease

A complication of Sickle Cell Disease is a condition of the eye called Retinopathy. This condition occurs when the blood vessels in the retina become blocked, grow haphazardly or become leaky, and extra blood is trapped within the space between the eye lens and the internal membrane of the retina. This can damage the retina and cause retinal detachment.

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency. The detachment of the retina is painless, however, if not treated quickly, can cause permanent, partial, or total vision loss. Symptoms include: sudden appearance or increase in the number of “floaters,” (which are shapes that float in the eye and are seen in the field of vision), brief flashes of light in the eye, loss of the eye’s central or peripheral field of vision, a curtain appears to fall over part of the visual field, and sudden changes or blurring of vision.

To see, light must be able to pass through to the retina without anything getting in its way. You may not be aware of changes to the retina until your vision has been impaired. Distinguishing if blood is floating between the internal membrane and the retina's nerve fiber layer is not always possible, and this is why we must have our eyes screened every year.

My daughter suffers from this Sickle Cell complication and the suffering she endures is heartbreaking. Cataract surgery (at 14 years old), and vision loss is something she has tolerated. I watch her battle for healthy eyes with tears in my own.

The branch of medicine that is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and conditions is ophthalmology.

Have you seen your ophthalmologist lately?

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