Living with central serous retinopathy

Central serous retinopathy (CSR) can lead to distorted and blurred vision, affecting the macula, which provides our central vision. Fortunately for most people, living with central serous retinopathy is temporary and only involves one eye. It often improves without treatment after a few months. Read on to learn about living with central serous retinopathy and the support you can get while recovering from CSR. 

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Managing your central serous retinopathy

When you have central serous retinopathy, you can experience symptoms such as blurred and distorted vision, blind spots, seeing objects as smaller than they are, difficulty with bright light, and with contrast sensitivity (finding it hard to distinguish between objects of similar colours).

This might sound like a rather scary list of symptoms, but you may not experience all of them. You may also find your symptoms vary day-to-day, with some days better than others. This is normal when you have CSR. 

Most people find the condition improves within three to six months. Sometimes CSR is associated with the use of corticosteroid medications, so your ophthalmologist may discuss changing or stopping their use if it's medically appropriate and safe to do so. 

While recovering, you could benefit from support to manage the symptoms affecting your vision. If you're having trouble reading and seeing details, different approaches and aids can help. You can even use a smartphone or tablet if you have one, for example, to take photos of objects then using the zoom feature to magnify them. 

If you have CSR for longer than three to six months, your ophthalmologist may recommend laser treatment or photodynamic therapy. Some people have the condition for 12 months or more, known as chronic central serous retinopathy. If this affects you, it can increase the risk of more lasting changes to your sight and other conditions due to retinal damage. 

Central serous retinopathy and stress

CSR can develop without a clear known cause (this is known as 'idiopathic'), but stress is a well-acknowledged risk factor for the condition. CSR can be more likely in people with high stress levels. Stress can be the result of a challenging life event or ongoing stressful circumstances. Some people may even have a personality more prone to high stress levels (sometimes known as a 'type A personality'). 

Stress prompts the body to produce a natural steroid, cortisol. We all need cortisol, but too much of it can affect the way your body functions. That's why, if you have CSR, you may be asked about your lifestyle and stress levels. 

You may be advised to look at lifestyle changes that may help to reduce stress. The NHS has advice on recognising stress, its causes, and things that may help. This could include changes like being more active, improving your sleep, practising mindfulness, and making changes to your diet.

Central serous retinopathy can recur, so it's important to continue having regular eye tests even after recovering. These can also detect other eye conditions that may benefit from prompt treatment.

Get support for living with central serous retinopathy

It's natural to worry when diagnosed with a condition that affects your sight. For many people with CSR, vision changes will be temporary. But for others with chronic CSR, there may be long-term sight changes to get used to. This might be harder if you don't have good vision in the unaffected eye. 

You might need practical and emotional support. Having someone to talk to about your feelings can help, especially in the early days. Practical support will grow your confidence about living with an eye condition. 

Our Guide Line can help you find local support and services. There are many ways to help cope with central vision loss, from tips and products to support and services. Simple solutions include:

  • Using magnifying lenses and other aids to make things appear bigger 
  • Ensuring you have plenty of bright and even lighting around the home
  • Making the most of everyday technology, for example, using E-readers and tablets to read text

Your ophthalmologist can refer you for a low vision assessment if you need additional support to cope with vision loss due to CSR.

Frequently asked questions

Get in touch

You can contact us to find out about services and support tailored to your individual needs.

Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 28/07/2022

Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.

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