What is the Retina?
When we think of our eyes, we may know there are multiple working parts. There is the lens that takes in light, and the cornea, through which light travels on its way to the back of the eye. It is here, at the back of the eye, where the retina is positioned. This thin layer of tissue has numerous light-sensitive cells that transmit light as neural signals. These signals pass through the optic nerve to the brain, where visual recognition is formed. Both the optic nerve and the retina are outgrowths of the brain. Both are vital to the quality of our vision.
How the Retina Affects Vision
There are two kinds of cells on the retina: cones and rods. These cells are called photoreceptors and each work in a specific way to formulate visual images:
•Cones are cells that live in the macula, the central part of the retina. Cones are cells that detect color and detail. Within the macula, cones facilitate functions including reading and writing, typing and texting, and recognizing small details of appearance in an object or person.
•Rods are cells situated along the outer border of the retina. These photoreceptors are involved in managing vision at night and in areas where lighting is poor.
Signs of Retinal Problems
There are a few ways in which the retina may be affected, from a tear to diabetic retinopathy to detachment. Symptoms include:
•Persistent blurry vision.
•Flashes of light in one or both eyes. This may occur upon blinking.
•Sudden onset of dark spots across the field of vision (floaters).
•Progressive reduction in peripheral vision. This may appear as a dark shadow at the outer field of vision.
Signs of retinal problems may not become obvious until substantial damage has occurred. It is important to obtain routine dilated eye exams from an ophthalmologist, especially if you have diabetes.
Treating Retinal Damage
Sudden signs of visual disturbance need to be examined right away. If you are experiencing sudden floaters or flashes, obtain immediate medical attention. With prompt care, retinal tears and detachment can be repaired and vision preserved.
There are several ways in which retinal conditions may be treated. A board-certified retinal specialist can be expected to recommend treatment based on the type and severity of the problem. In some cases, a laser device can seal the borders of a retinal tear. Tears can also be “frozen” (cryotherapy). If the retina has detached, it may be repaired with a scleral buckle or gas bubble to hold the proper position.
The team at Vitreo Retinal Surgery, PA has many years of experience diagnosing and treating retinal conditions. To contact a Minnesota office close to you, call (800) VRS-2500.