Learning About Retinal Drusen

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Anatomy of the eye

What are drusen?

Retinal drusen (say "DROO-zun") are tiny yellow spots that build up under the retina in your eye. They are made up of proteins and fatty substances (lipids). The retina is the nerve layer at the back of the eye that sends images to your brain.

There are two kinds of drusen. "Hard" drusen are small, have defined edges, and are far from each other. "Soft" drusen are larger, have less defined edges, and cluster together.

Drusen don't cause symptoms. An eye doctor (ophthalmologist) may find them during a dilated eye exam. For this test, eyedrops are used to widen (dilate) your pupils. This makes it easier to see the back of the eye.

Drusen can be a normal part of aging. Many people older than 60 have them.

But drusen may be an early sign of an eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This disease damages the part of the retina that lets you focus on what is in front of you. It causes blurring of your central vision.

How are they treated?

There is no treatment for drusen, but it is important to see an eye doctor for regular eye exams. Be sure to follow the schedule for your exams.

Your doctor will do tests to check for symptoms of AMD. In the "wet" form of AMD, vision changes happen quickly and can be severe. So it's important to find it and treat it early.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have vision changes.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.