What is a Retinal Specialist?

Retina specialists are specialized eye doctors who treat only diseases of the retina.  Ophthalmology is a specialty of medicine/surgery dealing with the diseases of the eye and the surrounding tissues, including the eye lids, eye muscles, eye orbit/socket, optic nerve and the optic tracks as they run from the back of the eye to their final destination in the occipital lobe, in the back of the brain.  Because of the many different aspects necessary for the proper function of the eye, ophthalmology has been divided into a number of subspecialties.  One of these is the specialty of retina.


The Retinal Specialist

The retinal specialist focuses his work on the retina, which is the sensory portion of the eye, the vasculature which supports the retina, and out of necessity, the vitreous which is the jelly material that fills the central cavity of the eye.  The retinal specialist is most often called upon when vision can no longer be improved after appropriate glasses have been prescribed and/or cataract surgery to determine the cause of the persistent decreased vision, or if there is any abnormality noted in the back of the eye on routine eye examination.


When Would a Retinal Specialist be Consulted?

Any condition in which there is decreased vision, which can not be explained by a condition involving the eye lids, cornea, and/or lens, could involve a consultation with a retinal specialist.    Conditions resulting in the clouding of   the vitreous can include vitreous degeneration, bleeding, inflammation/infection, and cancer.  If the center of the back of the eye (the macular) is involved, the most common major problem is macular degeneration. Other macular problems include  hereditary conditions, or the result of a number inflammatory conditions or infections, such as Histoplasmosis, Toxoplasmosis, AIDS, etc.  These conditions may also affect the peripheral retina.  Other conditions which can affect the macula include vitreo-macular traction syndrome, pseudophakic macular edema, macular pucker and macular hole.

Peripheral retinal conditions which would involve a retinal specialist include retinal tears and/or retinal detachments, diabetic retinopathy, hypertensive retinopathy, and tumors (both primary and metastatic), to mention just a few.

Vascular lesions include both arterial and venous occlusive disease, which may be either central or branch, and vascular anomalies.

Ocular trauma often falls into the realm of the retina specialist because there is usually bleeding into the eye with retinal damage.  This type of retinal damage may include giant retinal tears, retinal dialysis, macular swelling, and retinal hemorrhage.  Also when eye trauma occurs there may be a rupture of the globe and/or a foreign body within the eye.

How Do I Find a Retinal Specialist?

Retinal specialists can be located though the Yellow Pages, but it would be best to ask your current eye doctor for a referral.  In that way, you would be referred to a retinal specialist who has a good relationship with your doctor, and together they can best coordinate your care and follow-up.