Retina FAQ: A Guide For Our Patients
The retina plays a huge role in our ability to see. Here’s everything you need to know about this complex but delicate part of the eye. Read these frequently asked questions and answers about retinas and learn what you need to know about the retina, common conditions, and treatment options.
What is the retina?
The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back wall of the eye. As light enters the eye the retina converts this light into a signal that your optic nerve can convey back to the brain, eventually generating an image. The retina consists of both the macula and peripheral retina. The macula is the center of the retina and is responsible for fine, detailed vision.
What are common symptoms of a retinal problem?
Most retinal changes will present as painless changes to vision. These changes could range from slight decreased/blurry vision to more specific symptoms. Patients should alert their doctor with any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden or gradual loss of vision
- Central vision loss or blurry spot in center of vision
- An obstruction of your peripheral vision (veil, shadow, or curtain)
- Sudden shower of floaters
- Flashes of light
- Distorted vision – straight lines such as a doorway or edge of a window appearing wavy or bent
- The appearance of spots, bugs, or spider webs
- Wavy vision
What can I do to protect the health of my retina?
Although some retinal conditions are outside of your control some others can be mitigated with simple lifestyle choices such as:
- Healthy, balanced diet/nutrition
- Smoking cessation
- UV eye protection
- Good blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol control
- Routine eye exams
How long should I expect to be at my retinal appointment?
Retina visits require several different steps including an intake exam, diagnostic testing, Provider exam and possibly treatment when deemed necessary. These visits can last 1-3 hours depending on the needs of a particular patient.
Why do I always have to be dilated? How long should the dilation last?
Dilation expands the pupil to better facilitate a retinal examinations. It gives our Providers a better view to the back of the eye and is even required for some testing or procedures. Dilation typically lasts between 4 and 6 hours. Some people may be more sensitive to dilation in which case it may last longer.
How soon should I call or come in if I start to see a change to my vision?
If you begin to see a change in your vision or Amsler grid that doesn’t fluctuate or resolve by the next day feel free to call to discuss with a technician or schedule an appointment for further evaluation with your Provider. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is critical with many retinal conditions.
Is there anything that can be done for my Dry Macular Degeneration?
The treatment for dry macular degeneration is currently limited to nutrition/vitamin supplementation as well as frequent vision and Amsler grid monitoring for early detection of a progression to Wet ARMD. There are many studies currently being done for more targeted treatment of dry macular degeneration but none have yet reached FDA approval.
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Why do I have flashes and floaters? Are flashes and floaters dangerous?
Flashes and floaters are often symptoms of an acute vitreous detachment. A vitreous detachment is the normal separation of the vitreous gel from the retina that happens with age. On some occasions, certain parts of the retina are more adherent to the vitreous and this separation can cause holes or tears to occur. If left untreated these breaks can progress to a retinal detachment, a vision-threatening condition requiring emergent surgery. New flashes and floaters should be evaluated within 1-3 days to check for associated retinal breaks.
What to Expect at Your Retinal Consultation
This appointment will likely include a variety of diagnostic testing ordered by the physician as well as a possible treatment for your condition. The following information provided is an overview of a typical retina consultation. To provide the best possible care, your initial visit will be very thorough. We kindly ask that you plan to be with us for 2–3 hours so that we may provide you with a comprehensive exam.
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If you think you may be at risk for a retinal condition or are in need of treatment, contact the expert retina specialists and eye surgeons at St. Luke’s Cataract & Laser Insititute.