To review the pathophysiologic principles underlying increased autofluorescence from the outer retina and subretinal space using selected diseases as examples.Methods:
The ocular imaging information and histopathologic features, when known, were integrated for diseases causing increased autofluorescence from the outer retina and subretinal space. Inferences were taken from this information and used to create a classification scheme.Results:
These diseases are principally those that cause separation of the outer retina from the retinal pigment epithelium, thereby preventing proper phagocytosis of photoreceptor outer segments. The separation can arise from increased exudation into the subretinal space or inadequate removal of fluid from the subretinal space. Lack of normal outer segment processing initially leads to increased accumulation of outer segments on the outer retina and subretinal space. Over time, this material is visible as an increasingly thick coating on the outer retina, is yellow, and is autofluorescent. Over time, atrophy develops with thinning of the deposited material and decreasing autofluorescence. The accumulated material is ultimately capable of inducing damage to the retinal pigment epithelium. Diseases causing accumulation of the material include central serous chorioretinopathy, vitelliform macular dystrophy, acute exudative polymorphous vitelliform maculopathy, choroidal tumors, and vitreomacular traction syndrome.Conclusion:
The physical separation of the retinal outer segments from the retinal pigment epithelium hinders proper phagocytosis of the outer segments. Accumulation of the shed but not phagocytized outer segments plays a role in disease manifestations for a number of macular diseases.