What Does the Retina Do?

The retina is an essential part of the eye that enables vision. It’s a thin layer of tissue that covers approximately 65 percent of the back of the eye, near the optic nerve. Its job is to receive light from the lens, convert it to neural signals and transmit them to the brain for visual recognition.

Because the retina and optic nerve originate as outgrowths of the developing brain, they are both considered part of the central nervous system and brain tissue.

What is the primary function of the retina?

The eye has many parts that must work together in order to produce clear vision. The retina is made up of ten layers of cells that work together to detect light and turn it into electrical impulses. These special cells are called cones and rods and are known as photoreceptors:

  • Cones
    Cones are located in the central, or macula, part of the retina. These cells help detect color and detail. Similarly, the macula allows us to perform fine functions like reading, writing, typing and clearly recognizing people’s facial details (e.g., freckles).
  • Rods
    Rods are located in the peripheral, or outer, part of the retina. These cells allow us to see in poor lighting and provide us with night vision.

How can I tell if there is a problem with my retinas?

There are many ways to tell if you’re suffering from retinal damage, tears or detachment, including:

  • Sudden onset of floaters (small to large dark spots blocking your vision)
  • Flashes of light in one or both eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Gradual reduction in peripheral (side) vision
  • Curtain-like shadow over your visual field

How can I treat a damaged retina?

If you believe you are suffering from a retinal tear or detachment, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Retinal damage that goes untreated may lead to permanent vision loss and blindness. Retinal tears and detachments can be repaired with procedures and surgeries such as:

  • Laser
    A laser makes small burns around the retinal tear. The resulting scar seals the retina to the underlying tissue, which helps prevent further damage, like retinal detachment.
  • Freezing treatment (cryotherapy)
    A special freezing probe applies intense cold and freezes the retina around the retinal tear. The resulting scar helps secure the retina to the eye wall.
  • Scleral buckle
    A flexible band (scleral buckle) around the eye acts as a counter weight to the force that’s pulling the retina out of place. This procedure is performed in an operating room.
  • Pneumatic retinopexy
    A gas bubble is injected into the vitreous space (gel-like substance in the center of the eye) in combination with laser surgery or cryotherapy. This bubble gently pushes the retinal detachment back into place at the back of the eye.
  • Vitrectomy
    Often used in conjunction with a scleral buckle procedure, vitrectomy replaces the vitreous gel with a gas bubble to keep the retina in place. Your body’s own fluids will gradually replace the gas bubble.

Austin Retina Associates has more than 40 years experience performing retinal surgery with excellent outcomes. Call 800-252-8259 to schedule an appointment.

What are the Symptoms of Retinal Detachment?

Last month, we shared the symptoms of retinal tears and how they can cause a sudden onset of black spots (floaters) in your field of vision, blurred vision and a gradual decrease in peripheral (side) vision. Retinal detachment has similar symptoms to retinal tears and may result in significant vision loss if left untreated.

A retinal detachment is a serious eye condition that occurs when the retina falls or slides off the back of the eye. When this happens, people start to see a dark area in their peripheral vision that gradually gets bigger and bigger. This is usually an urgent medical condition that requires treatment as soon as possible to avoid permanent vision loss.

What are common risk factors for retinal detachment?

There are certain factors that increase your risk for retinal detachment. Common risk factors for retinal detachment include:

  • Cataract surgery
  • Eye trauma
  • Lattice degeneration (thinning of the outside edges of the retina)
  • High myopia (severe nearsightedness)
  • Previous history of retinal tear
  • Previous history of retinal detachment in the other eye
  • Family history of retinal detachment

What are common symptoms of retinal detachment?

A detached retina isn’t usually painful, and can happen without warning. If you’re at risk for a detached retina, it’s important to know the warning signs. Common symptoms of retinal detachment include:

  • Photopsia (brief flashes of light that occur outside the central part of your vision)
  • Significant increase in the number of ‘floaters’ (small flecks or threads) in your field of vision
  • Darkening of your peripheral vision or a curtain
  • Straight lines start to appear curved

If you have any of the symptoms noted above, it’s important to seek immediate medical care for retinal detachment in Austin to avoid permanent vision loss. Call Austin Retina Associates at 800-252-8259 to schedule an appointment.