CEI: Focus on the Fight Against Retinal Diseases

Robert Sisk, M.D.
Robert Sisk, M.D.Photography provided by CEI

Our eyes are like cameras, capturing the world in vibrant detail. But what if the film or light-sensitive sensors inside the cameras — in essence, our retinas — are compromised? This is the reality for millions of people worldwide, including people in Cincinnati communities, who are battling retinal diseases, the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in adults.

To meet the growing need for retinal disease care, Cincinnati Eye Institute — an EyeCare Partners practice — opened a new 36,000-square-foot facility in Blue Ash, across the street from its main office, in 2023. The new facility offers leading-edge diagnostic imaging platforms, lasers and surgical equipment, and will allow for growth and advancement to meet future retinal care goals.

“The ‘baby boomers’ have finally reached the age where these problems are more common, so that’s creating a significant need for retinal care nationwide,” says Robert Sisk, M.D., a vitreoretinal surgeon at Cincinnati Eye Institute.

For those under 50, the culprit is often diabetic retinopathy, while those over 50 face the threat of age-related macular degeneration. The rise in these diseases is fueled by longer life expectancies and an increase in chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

If you compare the structure of the eye to a camera, Dr. Sisk explains, the lens brings an image into focus, and the retina, at the back of the eye, collects light from the surrounding environment to form the image — a process fundamental to eyes and cameras. If you have “bad” film or sensors in your camera, you are going to get “bad” pictures, even if the camera lens is perfect, he points out.

“The structures in the front of the eye necessary for vision are the cornea and lens, both of which can be replaced,” he continues. “However, there is no retinal replacement or transplant, so it’s vital to maintain the health of your retina.”

Be Proactive

“Screening and prevention are the best ways to take care of your retinal health,” Dr. Sisk continues, noting that retina health can be a reflection of a person’s general health.

People with diabetes and anyone over 50 should receive yearly dilated-eye examinations to make sure their retinas are healthy. This type of examination, performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, detects potential areas of concern.

The best treatment, however, is preventing retinal diseases before they have the chance to start, Dr. Sisk emphasizes. Managing diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea — along with avoiding smoking — are the main ways patients can proactively improve their retina health. For diabetics, managing their condition can potentially reduce the severe complications of diabetic retinopathy: macular edema, macular ischemia and retinal detachment. Obstructive sleep apnea, often underreported, can influence retinal vascular diseases, especially diabetes. Treating this condition can also lessen the need for retinal treatment.

Macular degeneration is a bit more complex. It has a genetic component, but the main risk factor for severe macular degeneration is smoking, Dr. Sisk says. Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke can slow its progress.

When Treatment is Needed

Macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinal vascular diseases are the most common retinal conditions that require medical treatment.

A retinal specialist can offer treatment such as medication injections, lasers or surgery.

Vitreoretinal surgeons like Dr. Sisk treat conditions such as distortion of the focusing point (macula), bleeding in the middle of the eye (vitreous) and retinal detachment.

Dr. Sisk says patients could also consider entering clinical trials. CEI’s new facility offers more trials and earlier access to new investigational treatments and therapies. Physicians can inform patients about clinical trials that might best fit their particular conditions as well as discuss potential benefits and risks or participating in research. Currently, CEI has 28 active retina clinical trials, and this is expected to grow.

Want to learn more about CEI and taking charge of your retinal health? Call 513-984-5133 or visit cincinnatieye.com.

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