Medical retina is a subspecialty which deals with diagnosis and management of conditions affecting the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye which contains millions of light-sensitive cells, called rods and cones, and nerve cells. The retina receives visual information and organises it before sending the information to the brain via the optic nerve. The retina has a small area called macula, which is responsible for detailed vision and the best colour vision. Medical retina specialists look after patients with a wide range of retinal disease such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease, genetic conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, and retinal blood vessel blockages.
Medical retina specialists treat those conditions medically using a variety of drugs, eye drops or eye injections and lasers. For example, in wet age-related macular degeneration, injections inside the eye have transformed the course of the disease and significantly improved patient’s quality of life. Medical retina specialists also play an important role in preventing those diseases to progress any further by engaging patients with regular scans and tests such as the diabetic screening programme. Additionally, they work closely with other practitioners and GPs ensuring that patient’s overall general health and any systemic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are optimally controlled.
Medical retina specialists will also be involved in the development of new tests or new treatments for the eye conditions affecting the retina and the macula. For example, one study which looks into developing new diagnostic tool for macular disease is “Polarization Perception in Health and Disease. Testing a New Sight Test”. Another example is “A Study to Evaluate the Long-Term Safety and Tolerability of Faricimab in Participants With Diabetic Macular Edema”, where the long-term safety of injection to the eye is tested.
Surgical retina specialists diagnose and treat surgically conditions affecting the back of the eye and the gel-like substance in middle of the eye, called vitreous. At the back of the eye is the retina, a photosensitive layer of tissue which contains millions of light-sensitive cells (rods and cones) and nerve cells. The retina receives visual information from our surroundings and organises it before sending it to the brain via the optic nerve. The macula is a small area, part of the retina which is responsible for clear detailed vision and the best colour vision. Many conditions can affect the retina, the macula and the vitreous. One example is retinal detachment where the retina detaches from the wall of the eye. This can be treated with a number of surgical procedures and techniques based on factors such as type of detachment or patient’s age. Another common problem surgical retina specialists deal with is posterior vitreous detachment, in which the gel from inside the eye separates away from the retina. Patients can have laser treatment or cryotherapy to prevent the retina detaching from the wall. The surgical retina specialists also look after patients with epiretinal membrane, a layer of scar tissue which covering the macula. This scar tissue contracts and in turn pulls the retina underneath causing distortion of the vision. Commonly, this problem is treated with surgery, in which the vitreous gel is first removed from the eye (vitrectomy) and then the epiretinal membrane is peeled off. The pulled retina returns to its normal position and the distorted vision improves.
Research is important for the development of new tests and new treatments, thus improving patient’s vision and quality of life. “Assessment of surgery and standard treatment to treat visual loss from diabetic eye disease” is a study comparing the traditional treatment with injections and performing an operation in order to find the best treatment option.