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What Is Retinal Scarring?

Mary McMahon
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Retinal scarring is the development of scar tissue on, in, or under the retina, an important structure in the back of the eye. Mild scarring may not be a serious medical issue, but large scars can cause vision distortion and eventual vision loss. A care provider can evaluate a patient with retinal scarring to determine the extent and provide advice on treatment options. Treatments for this condition can be invasive, and a doctor does not want to recommend a procedure that may cause more harm than good.

Patients can develop retinal scarring for a number of reasons, including very severe myopia, ocular histoplasmosis syndrome, and wet age-related macular degeneration. It starts with irritation to the retina that causes inflammation and leads to changes in the tissue. If this occurs repeatedly, it can start to cause significant problems for the patient. It may wrinkle the surface of the retina or could cause the retina to swell. Sometimes, retinal scarring causes a retinal detachment.

Some patients may not be aware of the scars, while others may start to notice vision changes. Commonly it becomes difficult to read text, and patients may notice pattern distortions. These are the result of disruptions in the retinal surface. The classic test for macular degeneration, where a patient looks at a grid and reports any irregularities, can also show evidence of retinal scarring. Part of the grid may pull out of position or curve when the patient tries to focus on it.

For mild retinal scarring, the best treatment may be watchful waiting. If the patient has an ongoing eye condition, getting it under better control may help with the scarring, as it will prevent additional damage. If the scars are severe and cause vision loss, the patient may need surgery. An eye surgeon can carefully evaluate the eye and determine if it is possible to treat the areas of scarring. This procedure is delicate, and the patient will need to thoroughly understand the risks and benefits before proceeding.

There are certain cases where a physician may actually induce retinal scarring. In patients with retinal tears, or small holes in the retina, the surgeon may create a small scar to seal the tear and anchor the retina in place. This requires a steady hand and surgical precision. If the surgeon makes a mistake, the problem could grow worse instead of better. Patients may notice some vision distortion after surgery as the eye adjusts, but it should recover and regain normal visual acuity.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1004440 — On Feb 10, 2021

I have scarring on my retinas that causes distorted vision too. I also close one eye to see better especially if I'm reading something important like a line of numbers. I had edema in my eyes when I was pregnant and the doctor thinks thats what caused the scars but he also asked me if I had a cat but I didn't. Its frustrating to not know for sure what caused the swelling that led to the scars and even more frustrating now that I have distortion double vision that makes my eyes strain constantly and hurts all the time. No surgery can be done so now what? Praying

By anon324418 — On Mar 10, 2013

Your article doesn't mention retinal scaring due to a small (silent) stroke in the eye preventing blood flow to the retina. I had just such a case and it damaged the mid upper part of my retina in one eye. I can still see around the scar.

After over two months, there has been no change in the healing. My retina specialist told me it might take over a year for it to heal.

By jennythelib — On Aug 09, 2012

I first noticed my retinal scarring when I was a teenager. I mentioned to my mother that I saw floaters. She thought I needed glasses and took me to an optometrist. When he dilated my eyes, he saw the retinal scar tissue.

In my case, it is caused by congenital toxoplasmosis (which can make people a whole lot sicker than me). My mother must have picked it up while she was pregnant with me through exposure to cat feces. (Probably in the garden; we had outdoor cats. Strictly indoor cats rarely carry it.)

At any rate, toxo is not curable and could sort of reactivate at any time; then it causes inflammation as well. In the meantime, I've developed an astigmatism in that eye that might be related to the condition, and the scarring causes distorted vision in that eye. I often find myself closing it to see better far away.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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