Retinoschisis

Medically reviewed by Ann Marie Griff, OD on December 1, 2017Written by Diana Wells on December 1, 2017

What’s retinoschisis?

Retinoschisis is an eye condition that involves part of your retina splitting into two layers. Your retina is the tissue in the back of your eye that sends vision signals to your brain. When your retina splits due to retinoschisis, it can affect your vision.

There are two types of retinoschisis. Acquired retinoschisis, sometimes called degenerative retinoschisis, is often caused by aging. X-linked retinoschisis, sometimes called juvenile retinoschisis, is a genetic condition that mostly affects males.

Keep reading to learn more about the two types of retinoschisis and how to treat them.

What are the symptoms?

In its early stages, retinoschisis usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. However, if you have an eye exam done, your doctor might notice the split in your retina. Over time, retinoschisis may start to affect your vision.

Retinoschisis doesn’t cause total blindness. But it can lead to serious vision problems, especially if you have X-linked retinoschisis.

How’s it diagnosed?

Both degenerative and X-linked retinoschisis usually show up during a routine eye exam. Next, your doctor may use an electroretinogram to test the nerve tissue function in your retina. This is done by placing contact lenses containing an electrode in your eye. The electrode measures the electrical activity of your retina when it’s exposed to light, which gives you doctor a better sense of how well it’s functioning.

This test is done typically while you’re awake. However, some children, especially those between the ages of 2 and 5, may need general anesthesia to complete the test.

Another test for retinoschisis that your eye doctor may perform is optical coherence tomography (OCT). This instrument uses light waves to take cross sectional pictures of the eye. This can help your eye doctor assess the layers of your retina to see if the retina is split.

What causes degenerative retinoschisis?

The exact cause of degenerative retinoschisis isn’t known. However, it seems to be related to the natural aging process and affects both men and women. It’s usually diagnosed in people between the ages of 50 and 80.

What causes X-linked retinoschisis?

X-linked retinoschisis is caused by a problem in the X chromosome, making it a genetic condition. It almost always occurs in young males because they only have one X chromosome. Whereas females have two X chromosomes — so if there’s a problem with one of them, the other one usually counteracts it.

While females don’t usually have X-linked retinoschisis, they can be carriers of the condition and pass it on to any male children.

How’s it treated?

Retinoschisis usually doesn’t require treatment aside from glasses to improve your vision. However, some children with X-linked retinoschisis may have bleeding in their eye. This can be treated with either laser therapy or cryosurgery. In rare cases, children may need surgery to stop the bleeding.

If you have either form of retinoschisis, make sure to follow up with regular eye exams to monitor the progression of retinoschisis so you can avoid any complications.

What are the complications?

Both degenerative and X-linked retinoschisis may cause retinal detachment. The outer layer of the retina is anchored to the wall of your eye. If this anchor is damaged, your retina may detach. While this can happen to anyone, it’s more common in people with retinoschisis.

Retinal detachment is easy to treat when caught early, which is one more reason why it’s important to have regular exams, especially if you have retinoschisis.

Living with retinoschisis

For most people, retinoschisis isn’t a serious condition. Eventually, you may need glasses to correct any vision problems caused by your split retina. While the condition itself is often harmless, both degenerative and X-linked retinoschisis increase your risk of retinal detachment.

Make sure to regularly have your eyes examined by an eye doctor — an ophthalmologist or optometrist — to check for any changes or complications.

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