When the retina becomes damaged our vision can be impacted in many different ways. At Glacier Eye Clinic we provide a full array of retinal care through regular examinations, diagnostic testing, medical and procedural treatments, and, when necessary, surgery.

What Is The Retina?

The retina is a thin layer of tissue located in the back of the eye. Much like the film in a camera, its job is to detect light coming into the eye. It is composed of cells that capture light and send electrical impulses to the brain via the optic nerve. This process of capturing and transmitting light from the retina allows our brain to interpret what we perceive as vision.

When the retina becomes damaged our vision can be impacted in many different ways. At Glacier Eye Clinic we provide a full array of retinal care through regular examinations, diagnostic testing, medical and procedural treatments, and, when necessary, surgery.

There are numerous diseases that affect the retina. Some of the diseases are specific to the eyes while others are indicative of disease that affects other parts of the body. We often work with primary care providers and other medical specialists to monitor these conditions. Some of the more common conditions are further explained here. However, additional information can be found through the American Society of Retina Specialists webpage as well as the American Academy of Ophthalmology website.

The most important part of the retina is known as the macula. The macula is found at the center of the retina and is responsible for the majority of what we see. Colors, contrast, and fine details are all transmitted by this crucial area of the retina. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects this important structure and is a leading cause of vision loss.

Overtime, the macula may begin to break down and deposit material under the retina. These deposits are known as drusen. Drusen can accumulate and may impact the vision. Sometimes, drusen may cause atrophy of the macula, leading to loss of the photoreceptors that are essential for capturing light that enters the eye. When drusen or atrophy are present without bleeding or fluid accumulation it is known as dry macular degeneration. Treatment of dry macular degeneration is currently limited but includes close monitoring at home as well as routine examinations with your eye doctor. It may also include the use of over-the-counter vitamins with a special formula known as AREDS II that has been shown to decrease the risk of progression in some patients.

A subset of people with dry macular degeneration may progress and develop what is known as wet macular degeneration. In wet macular degeneration, the breakdown of the retina leads to growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the retina that leak, bleed, and cause swelling which negatively impacts the vision. Once wet macular degeneration has developed, injections of medication are often required to prevent further vision loss.

While there is no cure for macular degeneration, we are often able to control the disease and preserve vision through close follow up and continued treatments. Significant research efforts are being made to better understand why this disease occurs and how it can be more effectively managed.

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Over time, diabetes and elevated blood sugars in combination with high blood pressure damage small blood vessels throughout the body. Within our retina we have networks of very small and delicate vessels that are easily damaged by elevated blood sugars. This leads to retinal bleeding, swelling, and eventually can cause new blood vessels to grow. These new blood vessels are weak and fragile and grow along a scar tissue-like scaffold that pulls on the retina causing retinal tears, detachments, and scarring. Diabetic retinopathy can have profound implications on vision and, if not properly managed, can be blinding.

Once diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to have an eye exam annually. As diabetic retinopathy progresses more frequent visits may be required. Treatments for more severe cases of diabetic retinopathy and retinal swelling can include eye drops, laser procedures, injections, and in some cases surgery.

At Glacier Eye Clinic we communicate closely with your primary care team to help manage the impact diabetes may have. It is our goal to help you retain the best possible vision as we manage this challenging condition, together.

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The back of the eye  is filled with a gel-like substance called vitreous. Over time, the vitreous begins to shrink and will eventually separate from the retina, which is known as a posterior vitreous detachment or PVD. This is a natural part of aging. When the gel separates, you may notice the sudden onset of new floaters or flashes of light in the eye. These symptoms normally become less noticeable with time. A small percentage of patients that develop a PVD may also develop a tear in the retina as the gel separates. This can be a vision threatening complication and may lead to a retinal detachment. If you notice new flashes or floaters it is important that you notify your eye care provider and seek an evaluation. Retinal tears caught early can often be treated in the clinic with a laser procedure. If the tear progresses to a retinal detachment, surgery is usually required. The optometrists and ophthalmologists at Glacier Eye Clinic are trained to evaluate new flashes and floaters for signs of a retinal tear and, if indicated, provide appropriate treatment.

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Retinal tissue is very thin and lines the back of the eye. The retina may become separated from the wall of the eye for a variety of reasons. When this happens it is known as a retinal detachment. The degree to which vision is affected after a retinal detachment depends on what part of the retina is detached, the reason for the detachment, and the duration of the detachment. Retinal detachments should be evaluated on an urgent basis.

Symptoms that one may experience if a retinal tear or detachment has occurred include flashes of light, new onset of floaters, or the sensation that a curtain is blocking a portion of the vision. If you are experiencing these kinds of symptoms please call our clinic or your regular eye care provider.

At Glacier Eye Clinic, our surgical retina specialists Dr. Aaron Alme and Dr. Tyler Ofstad perform retinal surgery, including repair of retinal detachments.

The back of the eye is filled with a gel substance known as vitreous. As the vitreous ages its consistency changes and it separates from the retina. This process of separation between the vitreous and the retina can lead to growth of cells along the retina known as an epiretinal membrane or macular pucker. While the development of these membranes are common they may progress and pull on the retina, which can cause distortion and swelling of retinal tissue.

When the retina becomes distorted or swollen vision can be affected. Symptoms include blurry, distorted, and sometimes double vision in the affected eye. At first, an epiretinal membrane is monitored at regular intervals by an ophthalmologist. Once the vision is affected a surgical removal of the membrane may be required.

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Other Conditions Of The Retina

There are numerous conditions that may involve the retina. These include inflammatory, infectious, neoplastic, vascular, and surgical diseases. Our team will work with you and your healthcare team to ensure the highest level of retinal care.
The American Society of Retina Specialists webpage provides an excellent resource to further understand the importance of the retina as well as the impact of retinal diseases.