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Retinoschisis

Retinoschisis is a degenerative disorder of the retina. The condition causes the tissue of the retina to split into two. There are multiple causes for this condition, and each can lead to vision loss.

Degenerative retinoschisis (DR) is a common condition, affecting a little less than 1 in 10 people.  Although the exact cause is unknown, degenerative retinoschisis is a result of aging. Since the split can occur anywhere on the tissue, blind spots can be anywhere in the field of view. Vision loss depends on the severity of the schism and its location. The spots can vary between simply being blurry and completely lacking vision. Loss of peripheral vision is also common, but normally goes unnoticed. In rare cases, DR can lead to retinal detachment. There is no way to treat or reverse DR. Surgery has a high chance of worsening the condition, so it is only used when there is threat of the macula being damaged, which would lead to central vision loss.

A less common form is called juvenile x-linked retinoschisis (JXR). Unlike DR, JXR is a genetic condition that is caused by a genetic mutation on the X-chromosome. Males have an X- and Y-chromosome, while females have two X-chromosomes. JXR is more common in males because they do not have another X-chromosome to correct for the mutant gene. For this reason, females are mostly carrier of the gene and do not exhibit any symptoms. The symptoms normally present themselves in elementary school, but sometimes begin in infancy or are congenital. In addition to the schisms, tiny cysts form in the retina. Cysts can cause damage to the nerves, making it impossible to treat vision loss with corrective eyewear.  In rare cases, JXR can lead to hemorrhaging and retina detachment. Although complete blindness is rare, severe vision loss occurs. Those with JXR have trouble reading and driving later in life.

Retinoschisis can also be induced by another disorder. This is called tractional retinoschisis. One cause is vitreous detachment. The gel-like body that gives the eye its shape may detach and pull down on the retina, causing it to stretch and split. Diabetes-induced retinopathy results in a similar effect. Macular holes weaken the retina as well. Those with tractional retinoschisis have a high risk for retinal detachment.

Exudative retinoschisis (ER) occurs when there is a build up of vitreous fluid in the back of the eye. It has a very high chance of causing retinal detachment. ER is common among other forms of retinoschisis, and can be caused by macular degeneration.

Myopia and hyperopia is standard among patients with retinoschisis. Corrective eyewear is normally prescribed to those who need it. Unfortunately, this is the only real treatment available to those suffering from retinoschisis. There is no other treatments available to prevent, slow, or cure the disease.