A retina specialist is an eye doctor who specializes in treating conditions that affect your retina and your vitreous humor, parts located in the back of your eye. Some conditions that retina specialists treat are age-related macular degeneration, retinal detachment and diabetic eye disease.
A retina specialist is a medical doctor who specializes in the eyes (ophthalmology) and in surgery and diseases that affect the vitreous body and retina of the eye. Vitreoretinal medicine is another name for this type of practice.
The retina is the part of your eye that has light-sensing cells. Light comes in and becomes electrical signals that travel to your brain through the optic nerve.
The vitreous body, also called vitreous humor or vitreous fluid, is a substance resembling gel that lies between the lens and the retina. The vitreous humor helps your eyes keep their shape.
You first need to complete a bachelor’s degree. Then you’ll spend four years in medical school, followed by a one-year internship. After that, you’ll do a three-year residency in ophthalmology and then a two-year fellowship in vitreoretinal medicine.
Ophthalmologists with subspecialty fellowship training complete as many as 10 additional years of education after finishing college.
Retina specialists continue their educations throughout their careers as they learn new techniques and technologies and keep up with the advances in eye care.
A retina specialist is an ophthalmologist with additional training in diseases of the vitreous body and the retina. An ophthalmologist is a subspecialty doctor who focuses on preventing and treating diseases of the eyes.
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A retina specialist is able to diagnose and treat many diseases, including those that affect your retina and the macula, which is part of the retina. These professionals also treat conditions that affect your vitreous.
Diseases that affect the retina and the vitreous include:
Retina specialists manage serious and chronic eye conditions. Pediatric retina specialists manage conditions that babies are born with (congenital conditions). Uveitis retina specialists manage serious inflammatory conditions like infections and uveitis.
They can give intravitreal injections, or shots into the vitreous, and place intravitreal implants.
They can do a variety of surgeries like vitrectomies and repair of a ruptured globe.
If you’re seeing a retina specialist, especially if it’s your first visit, you should expect a long appointment, perhaps as long as three hours.
You should ask a friend or family member to come with you to your appointment. You’ll need a driver because the eye drops used for the exam will temporarily alter your vision.
Your provider will want to know your medical history, any symptoms you might be having and any medications that you take.
Making the pupil larger makes it easier for your doctor to see the back of your eyes. The back of your eye is where your retina, macula and optic nerve are.
Your retina specialist may need a variety of tests to diagnose you correctly. These may include:
If you have an appointment with a retina specialist, you may want to take a written list of questions and comments with you to an appointment, especially if it’s your first visit. You’ll want to make sure you understand everything you can about your condition and how to treat it.
If you’re comfortable having someone in the appointment with you, a friend or family member may be able to help you by taking notes. This can help you to be clear about your condition and the suggested treatment.
Here are some questions you might want to ask:
If you need tests, you might ask:
When discussing treatment, you might ask:
Your general eye provider, an optometrist or a general ophthalmology doctor will refer you to a retinal specialist.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Retina specialists are highly trained eye care providers who share your goal of preserving your vision and keeping you healthy. If you have the type of condition that requires you to see a retina specialist, it’s important to do so as soon as you’re able. In most cases, early diagnosis and treatment provide the best chance for a good outcome.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/26/2023.
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