Drusen: A Strange Ophthalmic Word that You Should Know

One of the most important aspects of patient care is clear communication. We understand that ophthalmic terms are unfamiliar to most people other than those trained in our field. We also understand that, when an aspect of health is not understood, necessary steps to manage conditions may not be taken. Here, we discuss the term “drusen” that you may hear your ophthalmologist say. What is it, and why should you know?

Understanding Drusen

Drusen is a German word with the rough translation of “rocks.” Used in ophthalmology, it refers to yellowish deposits of extracellular waste that accumulate under the retina. The retina is a small piece of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. When drusen form here, they may not be noticed right away except for during a dilated eye exam.

When small and few, drusen are generally benign. If the amount or size of these deposits increases, the risk of dry age-related macular degeneration develops. Age-related macular degeneration, AMD, is a leading cause of vision loss. It is characterized by the progressive degeneration of the macula, the central part of the retina. The macula is what forms detailed, sharp central vision. As the cells degenerate and die, blurry or blank spots may form or central vision may become generally hazy. The transition from bright to dim lighting may be difficult, and straight lines may start to appear wavy.

What if My Doctor Finds Drusen in My Eyes?

If your dilated eye exam detects small drusen beneath the retina, your doctor may recommend close monitoring via periodic exams. You may be advised to come back more frequently so your eye doctor can see if the drusen are multiplying or enlarging. If your eye exam identifies larger drusen, your doctor may order an Amsler grid or other additional tests to screen for age-related macular degeneration. If AMD is diagnosed, your doctor may recommend a supplement such as AREDS2. Supplementation cannot cure AMD, but it may prevent dry AMD from progressing to the more serious “wet” type of age-related macular degeneration.

VitreoRetinal Surgery, PLLC. offers advanced care for the various stages of age-related macular degeneration. The earlier care begins, the better chance there is of preserving vision. To learn more about our services, call (800) VRS-2500 to locate an office near you.

Why Changes in Vision Need to be Evaluated

When you hear the words vision and evaluation, you may ask yourself when the last time was that you say your optometrist. If you have never worn glasses or contacts and can still read the print of a book or website, you may wonder why it would be necessary to see any type of eye doctor, let alone a specialist. Here, we discuss a particular condition, a macular hole, that can arise even if your general vision has always been good.

A macular hole is a small gap in the macula, the piece of tissue that is at the center of the retina. When this gap occurs, vision may become distorted or blurry. It may become difficult to read print. Sometimes, a macular hole creates missing areas of sight in a person’s central vision. Any of these symptoms are an alert that you should contact an ophthalmologist or retina specialist.

What causes a macular hole?

About 80% of the eye is comprised of a gel-like fluid called the vitreous. As we age, the consistency of the fluid changes, which can pull on the retina. This tugging could tear the retina, causing a hole. In most cases, macular holes are the result of age-related degradation of the vitreous. Additional causes could be blunt trauma to the eye, diabetic eye disease, and retinal detachment.

How important is it to treat a macular hole?

It is not wise to ignore unusual symptoms that affect vision. Changes to normal visual acuity should be examined by an eye doctor sooner rather than later. In the case of a sudden onset of symptoms like floaters and flashes, emergency medical care must be sought. A macular hole may require surgical intervention to close the gap and prevent fluid from leaking behind the retina. If fluid seeps behind this piece of tissue, detachment could occur.

VitreoRetinal Surgery serves several Minnesota cities. Our retinal specialists are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of macular holes and numerous other conditions. We are proud to offer prompt, professional care to patients in Minneapolis, Plymouth, Woodbury, and more. Call  (800) VRS-2500 to locate an office near you.

Can I Stop a Retinal Tear from Progressing?

A retinal tear is a potentially serious condition on its own. However, there is also a concern that a retinal tear could progress to retinal detachment, an eye emergency that could cause blindness. With prompt care, there is the opportunity to prevent the progression from tear to detachment. We’ll discuss the issue here.

Retinal Tears and Detachments

Retinal tears are not uncommon. They are often related to the aging process. Like the rest of the body, the eyes change over time. In this situation, the vitreous at the center of the eye changes texture. It becomes increasingly watery and less gel-like. This change causes a pull on the retina that may tear a small piece of this tissue away from the back of the eye. The risk of a retinal tear increases with age. Additional risk factors include having had an eye injury or eye surgery or having severe myopia (nearsightedness).

The concern about a retinal tear is that they deprive the retina of oxygen, which can cause irreparable damage and vision loss. Liquid may also seep under the small tear, causing the retina to pull farther and farther away from the back of the eye. Immediate medical attention must be sought if signs of a severe retinal tear or detachment occur.

The warning signs to look for include:

  • A sudden increase in floaters. Nearly every person sees the occasional transparent or grey specs float across their vision. Seeing one or two of them is normal. Seeing a shower or curtain of these specs indicates a retinal tear or detachment.
  • Flashes of light
  • Decreased peripheral vision
  • Sudden blurry vision
  • Veils or shadows over vision

Getting Care for a Retinal Tear

The specialists at VitreoRetinal Surgery, PLLC conducts comprehensive retinal scans and tests to diagnose problems like retinal tears. We are proud to serve the medical community and patients in several Minnesota cities. Find us in St. Cloud, Plymouth, Edina, St. Paul, and other areas. Prompt treatment is essential to preserving vision and preventing progression. We are here to help. Contact an office near you to assess your risk or explore symptoms of a retinal tear with an experienced medical specialist.


Getting to Know the Retina

When people think about the eyes, there is usually little thought given to the fact that this part of the body has several working parts. Each part of the eye is integral to good vision. Each may be susceptible to certain injuries or conditions. As retinal specialists dedicated to providing outstanding care, one of the ways we help our patients understand their unique conditions better is to also discuss the details of the retina. Here, we look at a few important details you should know.

What is the retina?

The retina is a thin piece of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It is part of the eye that receives light and then converts it into a neural signal. This is then delivered to the optic nerve attached to the retina. The optic nerve transfers the neural signal to the brain, where signals are interpreted to form an image.

The retina is very small; less than one inch in diameter. It is approximately half a millimeter thick, and yet it contains about 200 million neurons. As small as the retina is, this piece of tissue has various parts that are involved in visual functions. For example, the macula, the central part of the retina, controls central vision. The macula enables us to visualize fine details, see color, read, recognize faces, and more.  

What are the common retina problems?

Being so thin, the retina is relatively delicate. It may be affected by a variety of factors, leading to problems and conditions such as:

  • Tears, holes, and detachments. These problems may occur if the retina is tugged away from the back of the eye or is damaged by trauma.
  • Age-related macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula deteriorates over time.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is a common problem that affects people with diabetes. Because diabetic retinopathy could cause vision loss, it is vital that diabetic patients receive annual ophthalmic exams.

Retinal problems may cause subtle symptoms that can be mistaken for age-related changes to vision. The following should be assessed by an ophthalmologist:

  • Peripheral vision loss
  • Double vision
  • Vision distortions such as waves
  • Dimmed vision
  • Flashing lights
  • Sudden and severe floaters

A retinal specialist utilizes several techniques and screenings to diagnose the cause of visual symptoms. If you believe you may be at risk of a retinal condition, contact us at 800) VRS-2500. VitreoRetinal Surgery, PLLC has offices in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and more to serve you.

Can Retinal Detachment be Prevented?

Eye health is an important matter that we must attend to at every age. In many instances, it is assumed that, with good habits and care, conditions can be prevented. This may be truer in some situations than others. For example, one of the risk factors for cataracts is sun exposure; so, wearing sunglasses is one way to reduce the risk of getting cataracts. Retinal detachment is a condition for which preventive measures do not exist. The best way to manage the risk of retinal detachment is to know why it may happen and what to do if it does.

Types of Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment may occur for three specific reasons:

  • Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment occurs when the retina has torn slightly away from the back of the eye. This is often an age-related problem. A gel-like fluid, the vitreous, exists in the center of the eye. It creates a buffer of pressure that holds ocular structures in place. With age, the vitreous becomes watery. This change can result in tugging that pulls the retina away from the posterior lining of the eye. When a retinal tear occurs, vitreous fluid can leak behind this piece of tissue, causing it to completely separate from its base.
  • Tractional retinal detachment occurs when scar tissue has formed on the retina. This condition is usually related to diabetes and the damage this medical problem causes to the blood vessels in the eye. Fragile blood vessels can leak fluid onto and around the retina, forcing separation from the back of the eye.
  • Exudative retinal detachment occurs without a tear or scarring. It is far less common than the other forms of retinal detachment. It involves the unexplained accumulation of fluid behind the retina.

Signs of Retinal Detachment

The risks of retinal detachment include having a family history of this condition, having had an eye injury or previous eye surgery, and simply getting older. Because risk factors are difficult to control, eye doctors focus on recognizing signs of a detaching retina. These include:

  • Sudden eye floaters, spots across the field of vision.
  • Flashes of light.
  • Darkened vision, like closing curtains.
  • Blurred vision.

If signs of retinal detachment occur, it is necessary to go to the nearest emergency room for prompt medical care. Vitreo Retinal Surgery, PA serves areas including Minneapolis, Plymouth, St. Paul, and more. To schedule a visit at an office near you, call (800) VRS-2500.

Retinal Detachment is a Unique Condition that Requires Special Care

Various conditions can affect visual clarity and that even pose a risk of vision loss. In most cases, this loss is a progressive worsening that occurs over years. With retinal detachment, vision loss can occur in a matter of hours. For this reason, retinal detachment is not just any eye condition, it is a medical emergency.

Retinal detachment is the separation of the retina, a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, from its normal position. This separation often occurs without any warning and can lead to vision loss without prompt care.

There are three types of retinal detachment. They include:

  • Rhegmatogenous, a type of retinal detachment that results from a tear in the retina. It is the most common type of retinal detachment and is related to natural aging. As the body gets older, the eyes change because the vitreous, a gel-like fluid in the center of the eyes, becomes waterier. This can cause a tear that then allows the watery vitreous fluid to leak through the retina and accumulate behind this piece of tissue. This accumulation pushes the retina away from the back of the eye.
  • Tractional retinal detachment is associated with diabetes. The retina is fed by tiny blood vessels and these vessels can be damaged by high blood sugar. Damaged blood vessels may bleed and form scar tissue that tugs on the retina, pulling it out of position.
  • Exudative retinal detachment may occur secondary to an eye injury, tumor, inflammation, or age-related macular degeneration. In this instance, detachment is caused by fluid build-up behind the retina that is not associated with a retinal tear or scar tissue.

Recognizing the Signs of Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment often occurs suddenly. Due to the urgency of the situation, it is important to know how to identify the signs of this problem. Symptoms of retinal detachment include:

  • A sudden influx of new eye floaters, dark spots that move across vision.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Flashes of light in vision. This can occur when blinking or when looking at objects.
  • Darkening vision, like a curtain being drawn.

With prompt, proper care, retinal detachment can be treated and vision preserved. If you experience the signs of this condition, contact an ophthalmologist immediately or go to your nearest emergency room. If you have questions about retinal detachment, contact VitreoRetinal Surgery, PLLC at  (800) VRS-2500. We have several locations in Minnesota to serve you.

How Do I Know if I Have Macular Degeneration?

Eye health goes far beyond how well one sees. What an eye doctor concerns themselves with is how long a person can see well. There are a handful of eye diseases that can affect this. Macular degeneration is one of them. Fortunately, this condition can be diagnosed early when comprehensive eye exams are the norm. Early detection is achieved via several specific tests, which we’ll outline here.

Screening for Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration occurs at the very back of the eye. The macula is the center of the retina. The retina is the small piece of tissue that transfers rays of light through the optic nerve to the brain. To evaluate the retina and macula, the ophthalmologist must dilate the eye. Dilation does not hurt. It is achieved with eye drops that make the pupils larger. The observation of the retina through dilated pupils may show a mottled appearance that indicates changes in pigment in the macula. Drusen, tiny yellow-colored deposits beneath the retina, may also be observed during the dilated eye exam. Additional tests include:

Amsler Grid

This may seem like a vision test but it is a screening for the function of the macula. During the Amsler grid test, the patient looks at a dot in the center of the grid. One eye is tested at a time. The non-tested eye is covered with a hand or small paddle. When observing the grid, the patient notes areas where there are blank spots, blurred or wavy lines, or other visual abnormalities.


This screening is achieved by reflecting light into the eye, which passes through to the retina. An ophthalmoscope is a special instrument that consists of a light and tips of varying sizes that direct the light through a central hole. This illuminates the retina and surrounding tissue.

Fluorescein Angiography

Fluorescein, as it sounds uses the power of fluorescence to evaluate the retina. This test injects a special dye into the bloodstream, then photographs the eye to observe how the blood is circulating through the tiny vessels near the retina. This test can identify if blood vessels are leaking.

Optical Coherence Tomography

This brief imaging screening takes 5 to 10 minutes per eye. It can capture images of all of the structures at the back of the eye, including the optic nerve, macula, and retina. OCT can detect areas of the retina in which atrophy is occurring. A thinning retina is a sign of macular degeneration.


This test is conducted to measure how much pressure exists in the eye. Some degree of pressure is necessary; it keeps the retina and other structures stable. High pressure is dangerous to the optic nerve. It can press on this part of the eye, causing irreparable damage. Tonometry is not painful and may be done without dilation. It may involve a quick burst of air directed at the eye.

VitreoRetinal Surgery, PLLC has several offices in Minnesota. To locate an office near you, call (800) VRS-2500.

Understanding the Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

When we hear medical terms like diabetic retinopathy, we can assume that the issue is you either have it or you don’t. This isn’t the case with most health conditions. Just as diabetes can vary in severity, so can diabetic retinopathy. Unlike diabetes, which affects a person’s blood sugar levels, diabetic retinopathy is a progressive condition that may not be reversible. Once you go from one stage to the next, it may not be possible to correct the damage that has been done.

As you may have guessed, diabetic retinopathy is a complication of dysregulated diabetes. When there is too much, then too little, then too much glucose in the blood, the tiny blood vessels that line the back of the eye where the retina lives sustain damage. The retina is an integral structure in the formation of eyesight. When this part of the eye is damaged, there is the potential for vision loss. A fortunate aspect of diabetic retinopathy is that this condition typically does not develop until a person has had diabetes for 3 to 5 years or more. Not every person with diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy.

When blood sugar is well managed, eyesight is typically not threatened. In the instance of poor blood sugar regulation, diabetic retinopathy may progress through four stages: mild, moderate, severe non-proliferative retinopathy, and proliferative retinopathy.

  • Mild non-proliferative retinopathy is the earliest stage of blood vessel damage. In this stage, the tiny blood vessels develop what are called micro-aneurysms, which is swelling in the vessels.
  • Moderate non-proliferative retinopathy occurs when some of the tiny blood vessels in the retina become blocked.
  • Severe non-proliferative retinopathy has progressed farther, with a substantial blockage in several blood vessels. These blockages prevent the retina from receiving the necessary blood supply. Without sufficient circulation of blood, the retina grows new blood vessels.
  • Proliferative retinopathy occurs because the new blood vessels that are grown to feed the retina are weak and fragile. These new vessels sit near the vitreous gel at the center of the eye. Being that they do not grow normally, these blood vessels may leak blood into the eye, causing severe vision loss. Proliferative retinopathy can cause permanent blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy can progress through these stages slowly or quickly. The speed of progression depends on several factors, including the patient’s blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. If you have diabetes, you must learn to manage your blood sugar with healthy lifestyle habits and prescribed medications, if necessary. You should also see an ophthalmologist with experience diagnosing and treating diabetic retinopathy. Visits should be scheduled yearly, or more often if the doctor advises.

VitreoRetinal Surgery is proud to provide care to patients in need of a retinal specialist in Minnesota. Call (800) VRS-2500 to schedule a visit at a location near you.

Are Eye Supplements Beneficial?

We often assume that we will absorb all the nourishment the body needs by eating a well-balanced diet. Numerous factors may affect this, from poor soil conditions in farming to the body’s ability to capture nutrients through digestion. For this reason, many people consider the value of supplements. Beyond a daily multivitamin, several types of supplements can be taken, including some that are formulated specifically for the eyes. Here, we discuss why and what those supplements could do for you.

AREDS: What Is it and What Does it Mean for Eye Health?

AREDS is not a product, it is a body of research. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study was one of the most influential studies conducted in recent years. An initial study, and also a follow up, AREDS2, were sponsored by the National Eye Institute to observe the effects of two multivitamin formulations on the development and progression of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. These common eye diseases typically affect people over the age of 55 and can be difficult to slow without consistent management. Each AREDS study determined that the risk of disease progression in high-risk patients could be reduced by approximately 25 percent through the consumption of specific supplementation.

Vitamins and Minerals for Eyes

Studies have identified a variety of nutrients that are known to have benefits for eye health. Many of them are antioxidants, chemicals that combat the cellular damage done by toxins and reactive oxygen. According to the AREDS clinical trial multivitamins, the following ingredients offer significant eye health benefits:

  • Beta-carotene. This precursor to vitamin A is in carrots, kale, beef or chicken liver, and sweet potatoes. It is an essential nutrient for night vision.
  • Vitamin C. When we eat oranges, kale, broccoli, and grapefruit, we get a dose of vitamin C. Known for its ability to ward off the average cold, vitamin C also reduces the risk of cataracts.
  • Vitamin E. Available in peanuts, almonds, and wheat germ, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant known to act against risks for cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that this nutrient, contained in many supplements, is protective against dry eye syndrome and macular degeneration.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin. These plant pigments were incorporated into the AREDS2 study in place of beta-carotene. Found in kale, spinach, and turnip greens, lutein and zeaxanthin may be protective against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Before taking new vitamins and supplements, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider. Our board-certified ophthalmologists offer comprehensive care and can provide information about clinically tested eye supplements. To learn more, call (800) VRS-2500.

What are The Risks for Macular Disease?

It has been estimated that approximately 11 million people live with age-related macular degeneration. This is only one of several macular diseases. Each of them can lead to vision loss. It is important to know what macular disease and what your risk factors may be because outside of that and routine eye exams, it is not easy to spot the early warning signs of damage to the macula. At Vitreo Retinal Surgery facilities, our experienced team offers comprehensive screenings for macular diseases. Here, we discuss details regarding risk factors and how you may protect your eyes.

Macular Diseases

The macula is the central aspect of the retina, a part of the back of the eye. When light enters the eye, it focuses on the retina. It is then transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. Some of the conditions that can affect this part of the eye include:

  • Diabetic macular edema
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Macular puckering
  • Macular holes
  • Retinal vein occlusion

Each of these macular diseases may present uniquely. However, damage to the macula typically causes symptoms such as reduced night and central vision, visual distortions such as floaters, and blurriness.

Risk Factors for Macular Diseases

Family history, genetics, and age are some of the strongest risk factors for macular conditions. However, other factors also contribute. For example, studies show that smoking increases the risk of damage to the macula. This may be because smoking can cause vascular problems and the eyes are reliant on numerous tiny blood vessels. Additionally, a diet that is high in salt, sugar, or fat may increase the risk of macular diseases. Unhealthy eating habits are associated with diabetes, and diabetes is a contributing factor for several eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy. Finally, surgery or an eye injury may affect the vitreous, the fluid center of the eye. If the vitreous shrinks from an injury, it can tug on the back of the eye, leading to macular pucker or macular holes.

If you want to know more about your risk for macular disease, contact us. One of our experienced retina specialists can perform a comprehensive exam to help you better understand your eye health. Call (800) VRS-2500 to contact one of our conveniently located offices in Minnesota.