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Medical News Today: What to know about central serous retinopathy

Central serous retinopathy is a medical condition where fluid builds up behind the retina in the eye. It can cause sudden or gradual vision loss as the central retina detaches. This central area is called the macula.

While medical intervention is not always needed to regain vision loss, a person experiencing any gradual or sudden vision loss needs to consult a doctor to ensure vision loss does not become permanent.

Early treatment is often key to making a full recovery.

Fast facts on central serous retinopathy:
  • In the early stages, a person is likely to notice blurry vision.
  • In some cases, a person may not experience any changes in vision.
  • The fluid that builds behind the eye may drain away on its own.

What is central serous retinopathy?

Anatomical model of eye to demonstrate central serous retinopathy
Central serous retinopathy is when fluid builds up inside the eye.

Central serous retinopathy is a build-up of fluid underneath the retina inside the eye.

The retina is responsible for translating light taken into the eye as images the brain can understand. The build-up of liquid can cause the retina to detach, and this can cause vision problems.

In some cases, no medical intervention is required, and the person will recover their vision after a short period.

However, people should see their doctor immediately if they start to notice changes in vision.

Symptoms

Blurry vision is a common symptom.

A person may also notice that the area around their central vision starts to darken or becomes blurry. In most cases, the vision issue is limited to one eye.

It is possible that a person may develop the condition in each eye at separate points throughout their life.

Additional symptoms of central serous retinopathy may include:

  • objects appear farther away
  • whites may appear duller
  • lines appear crooked
  • a dark spot in the center of vision

Central serous retinopathy does not always produce symptoms. It is possible that fluid may build up in areas that are not around the macula, which is responsible for clear central vision.

If this happens, a person may have the condition without knowing it because they do not have any symptoms.

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Risk factors and causes

Stressed and tired man rubbing eyes in front of laptop.
Stress, age, and medication may increase a persons risk.

Doctors do not know the exact causes of central serous retinopathy, but the following factors may contribute to its development:

Stress

Stress is a likely cause of central serous retinopathy. Stress causes the body to produce a hormone called cortisol.

Medication

Cortisol can cause inflammation and leaks.

This leakage may lead to fluid building up in the back of the eye. People taking corticosteroids are also at a greater risk of developing central serous retinopathy.

Age

Central serous retinopathy is more common in middle-aged men than in older adults and women. The majority of cases are reported for men between the ages of 30 and 50. Women are less likely to develop the condition than men.

What are the treatment options?

Sometimes no treatment is required. In these cases, a doctor will monitor a person to ensure the fluid is draining. But no other intervention will be required as the fluid drains away over the course of several weeks.

In other cases, the fluid will not drain away without intervention. Fortunately, there are some potential treatment options available including:

  • photodynamic therapy
  • medications
  • thermal laser treatment
  • stopping steroids as recommended by a doctor
  • lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes

Woman sleeping in bed.
Sleeping for at least 7 hours every night may help to reduce the risk of developing central serous retinopathy.

There are some general lifestyle changes a person can make.

Some changes include:

  • reducing overall stress levels, such as through exercise
  • sleeping for at least 7 hours each night
  • avoiding alcoholic drinks
  • reducing caffeine intake

Photodynamic therapy

In photodynamic therapy, a doctor injects a drug called verteporfin into a person’s arm. This drug then travels to the eye. Once the drug has reached the eye, the doctor focuses a cool laser on the part of the eye responsible for leaking fluid. The laser awakens the verteporfin, which helps to stop the leak and prevent future leaks from occurring.

Medications

Some medications may help the condition. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor medication is one type of drug used to prevent new blood vessels from growing in the eyes. This helps limit future vision problems.

Thermal laser treatment

Thermal laser treatment is another treatment. This procedure is a bit riskier than photodynamic therapy because as it seals the leaks, there is a much higher likelihood of developing scar tissue.

Steroid medication replacement

People who are having treatment for central serous retinopathy should avoid any drugs containing steroids. As with other medications, a person should consult their doctor before stopping the steroids, as stopping steroids suddenly can be dangerous.

Diagnosis

Anyone who notices a change in their vision must seek medical attention. A change in vision can be indicative of an underlying health problem.

Eye conditions can degenerate very quickly and, if left untreated, can lead to permanent vision loss.

To make a diagnosis, an eye doctor will need to examine the person’s eye. The doctor will likely ask the person several questions to understand what the symptoms are and to work out what underlying condition may be the cause.

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Are there any complications?

Central serous retinopathy does not typically lead to diseases or complications beyond vision problems.

For some people, central serous retinopathy can lead to permanent central vision loss if the fluid underneath the macula does not resolve. Some treatments may also cause scarring, which can lead to impaired vision.

However, for most people, central serous retinopathy disappears on its own with no medical intervention. In these cases, a doctor will keep a watchful eye on the progression of the drainage to help avoid permanent vision impairment. If the fluid drains away as it should, complications are unlikely.

Takeaway

Anyone who notices changes in their vision should seek medical attention as soon as possible. It is important that a person does not wait until their next regular check up to be seen. In some cases, no further treatment may be required.

The fluid typically resolves on its own. In cases where it does not, a variety of treatment options are available that may restore all or most of the person’s vision.

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