Central Serous Retinopathy: Gaining A Better Understanding Of The Disease

Posted on: 11 November 2015


Central serous retinopathy–also known as central serous chorioretinopathy–is a condition that occurs when fluid builds up and accumulates under the retina. The leakage of choroidal fluid between the retina and the outer layer of the eyeball can lead to distorted central vision. Although the condition generally affects only one eye, it can occur in both eyes at the same time. Since your eye often looks normal, it's important to understand how to identify and manage the disease.

What are the symptoms?

In addition to distorted central vision, central serous retinopathy can cause symptoms including:

  • Headaches similar to a migraine

  • Blind spots

  • Blurred or dim vision

  • Making objects appear smaller or farther away

  • Making straight lines look bent

  • Reduced color vision

  • Reduced ability to distinguish an image from its background (contrast sensitivity)

While the symptoms of this eye disease are usually only temporary, you can suffer permanent vision loss if fluid continues to accumulate over a long period of time and the condition is left untreated. While vision usually improves as the affected eye heals, your night vision and ability to distinguish colors may be affected. The condition also reoccurs in some people.

Who is at risk?

While the exact cause of central serous retinopathy is unknown, stress appears to increase the risk of developing the condition. Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been found in individuals diagnosed with central serous retinopathy.

Studies suggest that the condition is more common in men than in women. Individuals with type "A" personalities–aggressive and over-stressed–may also be among those at higher risk. Other risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure

  • Use of steroid medications (including inhaled steroids)

How do doctors diagnose central serous retinopathy?

Along with dilating your eyes to examine your retina, your eye doctor may use fluorescein angiography or optical coherence tomography (OCT) to determine whether you have central serous retinopathy. Fluorescein angiography involves injecting dye into the vein of an arm. The dye travels to your eyes allowing the optometrist or ophthalmologist to detect any abnormalities in the retinal blood vessels. OCT scanning takes a cross-section picture of the retina so that the doctor can identify any areas of swelling.

How is central serous retinopathy treated?

Most times, central serous retinopathy clears up on its own. Although the condition may not be serious enough to require medical treatment, your eye doctor will schedule regular followup eye exams to monitor the accumulation of fluid.

If the condition does not clear up, or if you have severe vision loss, you may require laser treatment or photodynamic therapy to seal the leak and improve your vision. Photodynamic therapy may be a safer treatment alternative than laser photocoagulation, which can damage vision where it is applied, especially if the leak is near the central macula where your vision is sharpest.