eye

Why You May Need a Retinal Consult

When you are suffering from vision loss, blurry vision, or other vision concerns, the primary medical expert you probably think of are ophthalmologists. However, it turns out that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to your vision needs. While ophthalmologists are equipped with the knowledge to diagnose, treat, and prevent eye concerns, there are still eye diseases that are best left to further specialists. For some of these conditions, you may need the help of a retina specialist.

What is a retina specialist?

According to the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS), “a retina specialist is a medical doctor who has specialized in ophthalmology and sub-specialized in diseases and surgery of the vitreous body of the eye and the retina. This subspecialty is sometimes known as vitreoretinal medicine.”

These highly trained experts spend a total of 10 to 11 years to quality as a retina specialist. They work in clinics and hospitals, and can help both children and adult in the treatment of various eye conditions and diseases.

To better explain the profession, the ASRS explains, “The retina is a light-sensitive area in the back of the eye that includes the macula, which is made up of light-sensitive cells that provide us with sharp, detailed vision. In a healthy eye, images are focused onto the retina and then converted into electrical signals that are sent to the brain for processing. The vitreous body of the eye is a clear gel that fills the space between the retina and the lens.”

All parts of the eye are subject to conditions and diseases that can result to blindness or vision interruption. When it comes to diagnosis of problems within the retina and other vitreous diseases, a retina specialist is needed as these diseases oftentimes require highly technical testing and equipment.

How so? Majority of retinal surgeries are extremely difficult, oftentimes performed with the help of a microscope. These microsurgical procedures have to deal with very delicate tissues located in very small spaces. A single mistake could spell catastrophic results for the patient. As such, a retina-vitreous surgeon must be precise and exact in each movement.

What diseases or conditions require the expertise of a retina specialist?

Retina specialists can treat an exhaustive number of eye conditions and diseases. Complex situations are oftentimes referred to them by ophthalmologists, particularly for these conditions and diseases:

  • Diabetic retinopathy – As the name suggests, this disease is a complication of diabetes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the condition is triggered “when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels can swell and leak. Or they can close, stopping blood from passing through. Sometimes abnormal new blood vessels grow on the retina.”
    Treatment of diabetic retinopathy would depend on the severity of the disease. When surgical treatment is required, retina specialists often step in to perform the laser-assisted surgical procedures.
  • Macular hole or pucker – The macula is a part of the eye near the center of the retina. It helps us see clearer by providing sharp vision. On the other hand, a macular hole is a break in this macula, while a macular pucker is a scar tissue that has formed in the same area. Both conditions can result to distorted and blurred vision, as well as having a dark spot in the central vision.
    These two conditions are often treated by a vitrectomy, a surgical procedure that removes the vitreous gel from the eye.
  • Retinal detachment – Another chief reason for ophthalmologists to refer their patients to a retina specialist is for retinal detachment, a condition wherein the retina is detached from its normal position in the eye. These can be caused by retinal tears or break, and if left untreated can lead to permanent vision loss.
    This condition is treated through a number of ways. One of these is through cryopexy, a procedure that treats retinal tears and small holes by freezing the area near the hole and “welding” it back together. Others would need a vitrectomy to also drain the liquid that is in the retina.
  • Age-related macular degeneration – On the other hand, age-related macular degeneration is leading cause of blindness among patients older than the age of 50. The condition refers to damage to the macula in the form of tears and holes.
    Similar to macular holes and pucker, age-related macular degeneration can also be treated by laser surgery. A retina specialist can also evaluate the patient further with techniques such as intravitreal anti-VEGF therapy, optical coherence tomography, and fluorescein angiography.
  • Removal of an intraocular foreign body – this refers to a foreign object that enters the structure of the eye, which may be from the anterior chamber even to the retina. If a patient injures his eye, then a thorough examination must be conducted to ensure that there are no foreign objects left in the eye. These foreign objects may be organic, metallic, or glass in nature, and can increase the risk of toxicity and contamination.

After a thorough eye checkup, the foreign object can be removed through pars plana vitrectomy.

  • Repairing a ruptured globe – According to the Kellogg Eye Center of the University of Michigan Health System, “A ruptured globe is a serious eye injury. Both the sclera and cornea are usually damaged in a ruptured globe.” This injury is caused by blunt trauma to the eye, such as during a car accident. It is imperative that a ruptured globe be surgically corrected as soon as possible to minimize its damage to your vision. During the surgery, all wounds would be closed to stabilize the injury, control the bleeding, and prevent further infection. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to determine the extent of the injury’s effect to your vision.

This is where the expertise of retina specialist would come in handy. Since they are adept at performing procedures at microscopic level, they would therefore have a higher chance of saving vital structures of the eye to restore your vision.
While ophthalmologists are equipped with the tools and technical know-how to treat various eye conditions, there are still some instances wherein they may refer you to a retina specialist. If they do, do not worry; it is for your own good, and you would be in good hands.

While ophthalmologists are equipped with the tools and technical know-how to treat various eye conditions, there are still some instances wherein they may refer you to a retina specialist. If they do, do not worry; it is for your own good, and you would be in good hands.