Signals are transmitted through other cells in the retina, and eventually travel via the optic nerve to parts of the brain connected with vision. These brain regions process features like colour, shape and movement and this allows us to see.
The list of conditions that can affect the retina fills multiple textbook volumes. Below is some information on common problems.
Treatment can slow, stop or reverse vision damage caused by retinal disease.
Left untreated, some retinal diseases can lead to severe loss of vision or even blindness.
Common retinal conditions
St George’s Eye Care ophthalmologist Dr Oliver Comyn is a specialist vitreoretinal surgeon, with years of experience operating on the retina. Dr Comyn’s expertise in this area means we can assess and treat all of the following conditions, offering our patients a comprehensive retinal service that extends beyond standard medical treatments.
Bleeding into the vitreous gel due to a retinal tear, detachment, or diabetic eye disease. In severe cases, surgery might be required to clear it before the cause can be found.
An age-related disease where the macula breaks down, leading to blurring and gradual loss of central vision.
Read more from Macular Degeneration New Zealand: https://www.mdnz.org.nz/
When light-sensitive photoreceptor cells degenerate and die. International researchers are investigating gene therapy and cell-replacement therapies using stem cells as possible treatments and so far one gene therapy treatment has been approved for use in the United States, parts of Europe and Australia.
Read more: https://www.vision2020australi...
Symptoms of retinal diseases and conditions
Many retinal diseases share common symptoms such as floaters (moving spots in your vision), blurred or distorted vision, or loss of vision (partial or complete).
You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience the sudden appearance of floaters, flashes of light or reduced vision, as these may be indicators of potentially serious retinal disease.
Symptoms alone won’t identify retina conditions, as blurred vision and distortion are common to almost all of them. This is why it is important to see a retinal specialist for assessment and diagnosis.
- Retinal tear and retinal detachment symptoms
New floaters or flashing lights often indicate the start of a posterior vitreous detachment, which may lead to retinal tears or a detachment. Floaters can look like black dots, inky swirls, or like there is an insect in your vision. Flashing lights are typically bright white and occur in peripheral vision, usually on the outside. They are brief, rather like a camera flash and are different from the often coloured flickering lights that can be seen for several minutes in a migraine attack. A retinal specialist can help distinguish between different causes of visual disturbance. Seeing a shadow obscuring your vision can indicate retinal detachment. This shadow might be grey, or dark, but typically stays in the same place and it’s not possible to see beyond it. Sometimes it is just in the periphery of vision, but may also involve central vision as it progresses
- Vitreomacular traction, macular hole and epiretinal membrane symptoms
These conditions cause a disturbance in central vision, leaving peripheral vision unaffected. Vision might be blurred (fuzzy, or not as sharp as usual) or distorted (where the shape of objects is altered). Letters may appear pulled out of shape, a computer spreadsheet grid might not look straight, or the Amsler Grid may be abnormal.
- Vitreous haemorrhage symptoms
With a vitreous haemorrhage, in addition to some of the symptoms noted above like flashing lights and floaters, you might see dark swirls in your vision (like ink), or it might be completely dark.
Your ophthalmologist will discuss which treatment option is best for you, based on the type of retinal disease and your individual needs.
Who is at risk of retinal disease?
People at any stage of life can develop retinal disease, although some diseases are more common at different ages.
Risk factors for retinal diseases include:
- Diabetes or other diseases
- Myopia (short-sightedness)
- Eye trauma
- A family history of retinal diseases
Nyctalopia (problems with night vision), is associated with inherited retinal diseases.
The diagnosis of retinal disease starts with a comprehensive eye examination by your optometrist. If they are concerned about findings in your retina, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist for further assessment, including specialist testing, to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options.
Why choose St George’s Eye Care for my retina treatment?
St George’s Eye Care ophthalmologist Dr Oliver Comyn specialises in medical and surgical treatment of retinal diseases.
After completing a first vitreoretinal fellowship at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, he was selected for a vitreoretinal fellowship at the world-renowned Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. He completed a research degree at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology by carrying out two separate trials investigating the effects of a new treatment for diabetic retinopathy.
Dr Comyn has delivered presentations about retinal diseases at international conferences and has had his work published in ophthalmic journals. He is regularly involved in clinical research, and is a Principal Investigator for a multinational clinical trial of a new treatment for a type of macular degeneration – geographic atrophy. Patients at St George’s Eye Care benefit from Dr Comyn’s specialist expertise in this area.
What is a retinal specialist?
Almost all ophthalmologists perform cataract surgery but most also have an additional sub-specialist interest. A retinal specialist is an ophthalmologist who has completed additional sub-specialist fellowship training in the field of retina. That training focuses on diseases of the retina that are treated medically, with injections or lasers, but also for some involves additional surgical training to become a vitreoretinal surgeon – a retinal specialist who operates on the retina itself.
At St George's Eye Care
We encourage you to play an active role in your treatment plan, and we take a personalised approach. You will see the same ophthalmologist before, during and after your treatment, and we work directly with your GP or optometrist as part of your long-term eye care team.
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