Retina specialist: A retina specialist (retinologist) is someone who specializes in diseases of the vitreous and retina. As amedical doctor and ophthalmologist, retina specialists are trained to diagnose and assess all conditions of the eye, but dedicate to treating conditions that affect the back of the eye.
Vitreous: A clear gel that fills the back chamber of the eye and is initially completely attached to the retina with strong adhesions at the optic nerve and the retinal edges. The vitreous is not necessary for normal vision and can be removed during specialized retina surgery (vitrectomy) in the treatment of a number of retinal conditions.
Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD): Progressive aging leads to liquefaction of the vitreous gel, which ultimately leads to it pulling away from the retinal surface. Under normal circumstances, patients with a PVD will experience new floaters, flashes, and slight blurring (or haze) of vision that will improve on its own with time. In some cases, a PVD can cause abnormalities, such as retinal tear or detachment, macular pucker, macular hole, and other less common conditions, that need further assessment by a retina specialist.
Myopia: Otherwise known as nearsightedness, in which one needs spectacle correction to see clearly in the distance. This condition can also be associated with lattice degeneration or myopic degeneration.
Uveitis: An umbrella term to characterize a number of conditions that involve inflammation within the eye. This can occur in different parts of the eye (e.g. the front, the middle, the back, or the entire eye). Uveitis can be triggered by a variety of causes, including trauma, surgery, infection, and immune system malfunction (autoimmune).
Laser photocoagulation: An in-office laser procedure used to create a seal between the retina and the eye wall in order to barricade retinal holes, tears, or detachments. In other cases, the laser can be used to treat abnormal blood vessels that are bleeding or leaking.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): Progressive thinning and atrophy of the macula that is an age-related process, but can be made worse by genetics, smoking, poor diet, and sunlight exposure. In some patients, this can be further complicated by abnormal blood vessel growth that can lead to bleeding and leakage of fluid underneath or within the layers of the retina.
Branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO): A blockage of a portion of the venous system within the retina that interrupts vision through capillary damage, fluid accumulation in the macula (edema), or bleeding from abnormal blood vessel growth.
Central vein occlusion (CRVO): A blockage of the entire census system within the retina that interrupts vision through capillary damage, fluid accumulation in the macula (edema), or bleeding from abnormal blood vessel growth.
Central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO): A blockage of the main artery that delivers blood to the retina from the heart. This is often associated with severe and irreversible vision loss and can be thought of as a ‘stroke to the eye’. This rare condition should be investigated for underlying causes such as plaque from the neck or heart, or temporal arteritis.
Temporal arteritis: A rare, life-threatening condition that can cause interruption in vision of one or both eyes that is a result of inflammation of the medium-sized blood vessels through out the body. This condition is often associated with other systemic symptoms, such as headache, scalp tenderness, jaw pain, muscle pain, fever, weight loss, and fatigue, and may require a biopsy of the artery in order to confirm the diagnosis and start treatment.
Central serous retinopathy (CSR): Also known as central serous chorioretinopathy, CSR involves the accumulation of fluid underneath the retina as a result of the failure of a specialized pump that normal keeps this area clear of fluid. CSR most commonly occurs among young, healthy, middle-aged men and can be triggered by an imbalance in the body’s normal steroid metabolism.
Cystoid macular edema (CME): Swelling of the macula, which is a result of leakage from retinal blood vessels that can be inflamed after cataract surgery or, less commonly, in conditions such as uveitis.
Degenerative myopia: An extreme form of myopia that can be manifested as myopic degeneration, which is similar to age-related macular degeneration and can result in atrophy of the macula or abnormal blood vessel growth. Patients with myopic degeneration can also have lattice degeneration in the peripheral retina and can be at risk for retinal tears and retinal detachment.
Diabetic Retinopathy: Progressive damage to small blood vessels within the retina as a result of chronically elevated blood sugar levels. In early stages of diabetic retinopathy, the damage can be seen with a retinal examination but may not actually be affecting vision. In later stages, progressive retinal ischemia can result in bleeding and scar tissue formation that can cause severe vision loss.
Lattice Degeneration: Congenital thinning of the peripheral retina that can be associated with myopia. Lattice degeneration does not affect vision and requires a detailed examination of the periphery in order to be identified, but it can be associated with a higher risk of retinal tears or retinal detachment compared to the normal population.
Macular hole: A full-thickness defect in the center of the macula that interferes with central vision and is a result of abnormal mechanical forces between the vitreous and the macula. In most cases, macular holes require surgical correction to avoid enlargement and further compromise of central vision.
Macular pucker: A transparent membrane (epiretinal membrane) on the surface of the macula that can causes wrinkling and distortion of central vision. The most common form of macular pucker is a result of abnormal interactions between the vitreous and the macula, but it can also be associated with uveitis (inflammation), trauma, and other rare eye conditions.
Retinal tear: A full-thickness defect in the peripheral retina that is often the result of the vitreous gel liquefying with age and separating from the retina (PVD). Retinal tears can be sealed with laser or cryopexy in order to reduce the risk of retinal detachment.