Your ophthalmologist or optometrist can monitor your vision, prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and diagnose, treat and prevent a number of eye diseases. However, for some eye conditions, your eye doctor may refer you to a retina specialist for care.
What is a retina specialist?
A retina specialist is a medical doctor who has specialized in ophthalmology and also completed an additional one to two years of intensive, sub-specialized training in diseases and surgery of the retina and the vitreous body of the eye. This subspecialty is also called vitreoretinal medicine or vitreoretinal surgery.
What is the retina?
The retina is a layer of nerve cells that line the back wall of the inside of your eye. The retina senses light and sends signals to the brain so you can see.
What is the vitreous?
The vitreous is the clear gel that fills the space between the eye’s lens and retina.
Common Conditions Treated by Retina Specialists
Retina specialists care for a variety of complex eye conditions. Some of the most common diseases and issues we treat, include:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)— The leading cause of vision loss in adults over 50, AMD is the most common reason patients are referred to Texas Retina Associates. With AMD, a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. The macula is the central part of the retina responsible for detailed vision tasks. There are two types of AMD — dry and wet. Dry is the most common form, and wet AMD is less common but more serious. Over the last decade, medical researchers have made great progress in the battle against vision loss associated with AMD, and many of our Texas Retina physicians have helped lead ground-breaking research to bring the latest treatment options to our patients.
- Diabetic retinopathy— At least 50 percent of diabetics will develop diabetic retinopathy, and it has become the overall leading cause of blindness in the United States. All diabetics should have an annual comprehensive eye exam with their ophthalmologist or optometrist to check for retinopathy. High blood sugar levels damage blood vessels in the retina, causing them to swell, leak, or close, which prevents blood from circulating properly in the eye. Sometimes abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina as well. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy. The early stage is called non-proliferative (NPDR), and the more advanced stage is called proliferative (PDR). New treatment methods are increasing the possibility of patients with diabetic retinopathy retaining useful vision.
- Retinal tears or detachment — As you age, your eye’s vitreous can shrink or change shape which doesn’t typically cause damage. However, it can pull away from the retina, especially if you are nearsighted or experience inflammation. If the vitreous pulls a piece of the retina with it, this causes a retinal tear. If the vitreous continues to pull, the tear can cause the retina to detach from the back of your eye, resulting in blurry vision. Left untreated, a retinal detachment can lead to blindness. At Texas Retina Associates, our retina specialists treat retinal tears with laser treatment (photocoagulation) or a freezing treatment (cryotherapy). They also perform surgery to repair retinal detachments.
- Macular hole or pucker — Both macular holes and macular puckers can reduce your central vision. As the vitreous separates from the retina due to age or injury, it can pull on the macula. Over time, this can cause a macular hole to form. With a macular pucker, a clear membrane made up of a layer of cells covers the surface of the macula and then shrinks, causing wrinkling or puckering of the retina. Our retina physicians perform a specialized surgery called vitrectomy to treat both macular holes and macular puckers.
- Penetrating ocular trauma— Injuries that penetrate the eye — usually by a high-velocity or sharp object hitting the eye — can cause severe vision loss. Retina specialists are trained in detailed surgical techniques to stabilize and repair these types of injuries.