The Top 6 Reasons to See a Retina Specialist

Posted on November 30, 2023 • by RCA • in RCA Featured Blog Posts

Originally published by The Retina Eye Center

If you or your family experienced a vision issue, would you know what kind of doctor to visit? Your ophthalmologist can usually handle your eye care, but for specialized concerns, you may need to see a retina specialist. They possess additional, intensive education and training, enabling them to diagnose and treat multiple vitreoretinal disorders, or after eye surgery or trauma. The retina specialist will regularly coordinate with your ophthalmologist to ensure a smooth, comprehensive patient experience.

What Kind of Eye Doctor Do I Need?

Patients of all ages should first see a general ophthalmologist, a physician trained in all aspects of eye care. They can diagnose and treat eye diseases, perform surgery, and prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses. For more specialized care, such as that involving bleeding, infection, or cancer, you’ll visit a retina specialist – a surgical physician with specialized education.

When to Visit a Retina Specialist

You’ll probably need an ophthalmologist’s referral to see a retinal specialist, although you may be referred by your regular doctor, family, or friends. Below are six of the most common conditions that are treated by retina specialists.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Many adults have dry, or atrophic AMD, the more common form, but if it advances to wet, or exudative AMD, the more serious type, a retina specialist may be needed. They’ll diagnose you and begin a course of intravitreal anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications, which stop abnormal blood vessel growth. Wet AMD symptoms include metamorphopsia (objects’ shapes appearing distorted), scotomas (blind spots), and retinal fluid leakage or heavy bleeding.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Any diabetes type can cause diabetic retinopathy, which damages the retina’s tiny blood vessels supplying the retina with oxygen. With the more severe form, proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), to compensate, the eye grows abnormal, fragile blood vessels. They can leak, causing blood and other fluid to seep into the vitreous cavity, resulting in vision loss or retinal detachment. A retina specialist can diagnose PDR and operate, shrinking or removing vessels before the damage worsens.

Retinal Tear or Detachment

You may need a retina specialist if a retinal tear develops. Typically caused by a natural process, posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), it involves the vitreous shrinking and losing viscosity (thickness), making it stick to the retina. Vitreal fluid leaks and builds up behind the retina, pushing it until it completely detaches, which is a serious medical emergency.

Foreign Body in the Eye

Retina specialists can diagnose and treat injuries in which metallic, glass, or organic material penetrates the eyeball. After assessing you, they’ll remove all fragments with tools and diagnostic methods, and if needed, perform surgery, generally a vitrectomy, the removal of the vitreous.

Macular Edema

With macular edema (swelling), and particularly diabetic macular edema (DME), retina specialists can diagnose and administer intravitreal injections, perform focal laser or other laser treatments, or both. Surgery may also be performed, including vitrectomy or a membranectomy (membrane peel), in which the eye’s membrane is peeled away from the retina.

Retinal Vein & Artery Occlusions

Occlusions, or blockages, can develop in your central retinal and branch retinal blood vessels, posing serious concerns, especially with macular edema or ischemia (blood flow disruptions). Left untreated, permanent vision loss can occur. Retina specialists can assess and determine treatment, including laser or injected medications.

Recognize When To See A Retina Specialist

While you rely on your ophthalmologist for your vision health, a retina specialist may step in for specialized vitreoretinal cases. Find a Retina Consultants of America doctor near you.