Common Retinal Conditions that Can be Misdiagnosed

Medical misdiagnoses are difficult to understand. Doctors do their best to arrive at accurate conclusions about patients’ health based on available data. However, because there are innumerable medical conditions, and many of them mimic one another, even highly trained and experienced healthcare providers and sophisticated diagnostic equipment could overlook the correct issue. One of the best ways we have of reducing misdiagnoses in medicine at large and, for us, within the field of retina care, is to educate patients. The team at VitreoRetinal Surgery, PLLC is consistently armed with the most up-to-date information regarding retinal conditions. We share this information with patients to ensure they can make confident decisions about their care.

Three Commonly Misdiagnosed Retinal Conditions

Macular Hole

We receive numerous referrals from other doctors and appreciate the opportunity to provide advanced care for their patients. Sometimes, patients come to us believing they have a macular hole. This misdiagnosis isn’t too far off-base. What we often find is that a macular hole diagnosis is actually a lamellar macular hole. The difference relates to severity, with the lamellar macular hole being less severe.

A macular hole affects all layers of the retina, while a lamellar macular hole affects only one or a few.

A macular hole must be surgically corrected, while a lamellar macular hole typically does not require surgical intervention.

Central Retinal Vein Occlusion

Central retinal vein occlusion is a condition in which small blot hemorrhages may be scattered throughout all four quadrants of the eye. This same clinical data characterizes diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, both conditions can cause macular edema that is visually significant during an eye exam. A retina specialist may differentiate the two by the presence of disc edema and venous tortuosity (twisting of one or more veins) in the eye, which indicates the occlusion of the central retinal vein.


Like central retinal vein occlusion, peripheral retinoschisis shares similar indications with another condition. In this instance, it is that peripheral retinoschisis gets misdiagnosed as retinal detachment. In either condition, the retina may be elevated. A specialist looks for finite details such as white dots on the retina and a particular shape and thickness of this part of the eye to reach an accurate diagnosis. The distinction is critical because retinal detachment requires prompt surgical intervention to prevent vision loss, whereas peripheral retinoschisis does not.

The differences between retinal conditions often come down to the tiniest details. The objective of any comprehensive eye exam is not to create doubt in a patient’s mind that their referring doctor “got it wrong.” Our goal is to continue providing second-opinions as requested by referring physicians so patients receive the best possible care.

We proudly serve areas in and around Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Hermantown, Edina, St. Paul, and more. To locate an office near you, call (800) VRS-2500.