What Is a Diabetic Eye Exam?

Diabetes is a disease that impairs the body’s ability to produce the insulin hormone and leads to elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels can increase your risk for an array of eye problems including blurry vision, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Often, diabetes damages the small blood vessels in your retina, or the back of the eye. This condition is called diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy develops when blood vessels in the eye are exposed to high blood glucose levels for a prolonged period of time. This weakens the walls of the blood vessels in the eyes. The longer a person has had diabetes and the greater his/her exposure to high blood glucose, the higher his/her risk of having this condition.

“Diabetic eye disease, when caught in time, is no longer a blinding condition. Nowadays, with early detection and prompt treatment, we can prevent vision loss and in some cases, are able to reverse some of the diabetic changes in the retina. But what we like to do, at Austin Retina, is help educate our patients on what diabetes is and how it affects their vision,” explains Dr. Robert W. Wong. “By working together with the primary care physician, endocrinologist and the patient themselves, we find strategies to improve blood sugar and blood pressure control. These two risk factors, among others, are things our patients have the ability to control. And with guidance, our goal is to keep them seeing well and living healthier lives.”

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to get regular eye exams, so your doctor can detect problems like diabetic retinopathy early, preserve your eye health and protect your vision.

What is a diabetic eye exam?

Anyone with diabetes is encouraged to get regular eye exams. This allows your ophthalmologist to look for changes in the blood vessels of the retina that may indicate diabetic retinopathy. Here is what you can expect during a diabetic eye exam:

  • Your ophthalmologist will ask you about your medical and vision history.
  • Next, you will read an eye chart.
  • The doctor will then examine the retina in the back or your eye using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope.
  • Often, your doctor will administer drops to dilate your pupils and use a special light called a slit lamp to view the retina.
  • A test called fluorescein angiography may be used to reveal changes in the structure and function of the retinal blood vessels. For this test, your doctor will inject a fluorescent yellow dye into one of your veins and photograph your retina as the dye outlines the blood vessels.
  • During a diabetic eye exam, your doctor will also check your eyes for cataracts and glaucoma.

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, the experienced eye care specialists at Austin Retina Associates can help. We are skilled in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy in Austin. Call at 877-925-7649 to schedule an initial consultation.

August is Children’s Eye Health Month

It’s August, which means you’re likely to find many parents scouring online ads and store shelves for the best back to school deals on backpacks and lunch boxes. But it’s important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your kids, too. August is Children’s Eye Health Month, so start the year off right with healthy eyes and clear vision so they can whiz through their school day with ease.

Things to look for if you suspect vision troubles

Most pediatricians will begin routine eye exams during their annual well-child visits beginning at age three. If you or your doctor suspect vision problems or have other eye health concerns, they will recommend you visit an ophthalmologist for further testing. Amblyopia (lazy eye), Strabismus (crossed eyes), color blindness and refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism) are the most common conditions that can affect a child’s eyesight.

“It’s important that all children are screened by an eyecare professional by the age of 5,” explains Dr. Armitage Haprer. “In addition, if there’s a family history of any retinal disease, like retinoblastoma, Stickler’s disease, or Marfan’s Disease, then each child should be screened at birth.”

Here are some common things to watch for, so you’ll know if your child is struggling with their vision:

  • Frequent eye rubbing or squeezing
  • Squinting
  • Tilting or turning head to look at objects
  • Wandering eyes
  • Recurring headaches
  • Watery eyes or redness

Eye safety is just as important for protecting your child’s vision

Did you know that nearly 90 percent of eye injuries affecting children are avoidable? Here are some easy ways you can help protect their vision:

  • Children who play sports should wear eye protection with polycarbonate lenses, which are shatter-resistant.
  • Look for toys that are approved by The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which means they have met or exceeded national safety standards.
  • Avoid projectile toys like darts, bow and arrow or missile-firing toys.

If your child should experience an eye injury, do not allow them to touch or rub the affected eye and seek medical attention immediately. If your child is in need of specialist care or retinal surgery in Austin, call the experienced eye care specialists at Austin Retina Associates at 877-925-7649 to schedule an appointment.

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 877-925-7649 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 877-925-7649 to schedule an appointment.

What are the Symptoms of Retinal Tears?

The retina is the inner lining of the eye; it is the part of the eye that contains light-sensitive tissue and creates vision. Retinal tears can happen as a result of trauma to the eye or a naturally occurring posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).

What is posterior vitreous detachment (PVD)?

The vitreous is a clear gel-like substance that is attached to the retina at birth. With age, PVD occurs when this gel naturally separates from the retina. In most cases, it does not cause any issues. For those with abnormally ‘sticky’ vitreous gel, however, PVD can spontaneously cause retinal tears.

“As commonly discussed with my patients, untreated retinal tears may result in retinal detachment and vision loss,” explains Dr. Agustin Martinez.

What are common symptoms of retinal tears?

Suffering from a retina tear is serious and often requires medical treatment to prevent vision loss. Common symptoms of retinal tears include:

  • Sudden onset of black spots or ‘floaters’ in your field of vision
  • Photopsia (flashes of light) in one or both eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Gradually decreased peripheral (side) vision
  • A curtain-like shadow over your visual field

When should I see a doctor?

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, you are at an increased risk of developing retinal detachment. Retinal detachment can cause blindness and should be treated as a medical emergency. The skilled physicians at Austin Retina Associates urge you to seek immediate medical attention, particularly if you:

  • Are over the age of 50
  • Have a family or personal history of retinal detachment
  • Are extremely nearsighted

For excellent care and retinal tears treatment in central Texas, contact Austin Retina Associates at 877-925-7649 to schedule an appointment. We offer comprehensive capabilities few can match, the most advanced treatment and procedures, 24/7 doctor availability, and a highly experienced, knowledgeable and caring staff.

Common Causes of Macular Holes in Young Adults

A macular hole is a small break in the macula of the eye, which is the central part of the retina that gives people the ability to see details. When the macula is damaged, it can cause sudden blurred or distorted central vision. Central vision is needed for activities that require fine, sharp, straight-ahead vision, including reading, writing and driving.

When young adults experience a macular hole, not only can it limit their ability to see, but it can also limit their day-to-day activities. Macular holes can be treated, however, with a vitrectomy—a common treatment for this condition. During the surgery, a retinal specialist will remove the gel that is filling the injured area (macular hole) of the eye. This allows the eye to heal, help the hole close and restore central vision. The surgery lasts between 45 to 90 minutes and recovery is usually between four to eight weeks.

Causes of macular holes in young adults

These are the three most common causes of macular holes in young adults:

  • Injury or trauma
    Young adults who participate in high-contact activities are at an increased risk of developing a macular hole following blunt trauma to the eye. James Dooner notes that this is by far the most common cause of all macular holes in young people.
  • High myopia
    Young adults with high myopia—nearsightedness requiring a corrective lens prescription of at least -6.00 diopeters (D)—are at an increased risk of developing macular holes.
  • Ocular inflammation

Ocular inflammation is inflammation of the uvea, or middle layer of the eye, and is often caused by autoimmune disorders, inflammatory disorders or other diseases that weaken the immune system. Ocular inflammation may also result from a normal immune response of the body fighting an eye infection.

“The bottom line is that macular holes are very rare in young adults,” says Dr. Dooner. “They are much more common in the elderly.”

If you or a loved one is experiencing sudden blurred or distorted central vision, Austin Retina Associates can help diagnose and treat macular hole degeneration in Austin. Our skilled team of ophthalmologists has over 20 years’ experience treating diseases and injuries of the eye. Call 877-925-7649 to schedule an appointment.

Is It Safe to Do Retina Operations at an Old Age?

The retina is a layer of cells located at the back of the eyeball. These cells are light-sensitive and trigger nerve impulses that pass through the optic nerve and into the brain. From there, a visual image is formed. If something happens to one or both of your retinas, like a tear or detachment, you may experience temporary or permanent vision loss.

Eyesight naturally declines with age

It is common for eyesight to deteriorate with age. Beginning in the early 40s, adults may notice more difficulty seeing clearly at close distances, especially while reading or working on a computer. With age people are at risk for developing more serious types of age-related eye conditions like: Macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vessel occlusions and detached retinas. Each of these conditions affects the retina in some way and requires surgery to repair it or stop it from getting worse.

Is retina surgery safe for elderly people?

Generally speaking, ophthalmic treatments have a low risk of complications. However, elderly people have a higher risk of complications from any surgical procedure—including retina operations. This is largely due to other age-related health conditions like: Increased blood pressure, clogged arteries, and heart and lung disease.

“It’s important to note that age isn’t the predominant factor for the safety of a patient during an operation,” said Dr. Mark Levitan. “It really comes down to the patient’s overall health.”

All that said, surgery on the elderly can be done safely—if doctors take the necessary precautions. The skilled ophthalmologists at Austin Retina Associates have vast experience successfully treating and repairing age-related eye conditions in older adults. If you or a loved one is struggling with untimely vision loss, we are here to safely help you.

For skilled retinal surgery in Austin, call 877-925-7649.

What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is the leading cause of blindness among Americans over the age of 50, affecting nearly 15 million men and women in the United States.

Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive loss of central vision

Though it only accounts for three percent of your entire visual field, central vision is required to see anything that is straight in front of you.

“AMD often begins as a blurred area near the center of the vision and grows larger over time, explains Dr. Shelley Day. “Central vision is essential for any activity requiring fine, clear vision, like reading, cooking, writing or fixing things around the house.”

Central vision also helps with estimating distances and recognizing faces. Over time, blurred vision due to age-related macular degeneration can lead to distortion or even blank spots (loss of vision).

The area affected by age-related macular degeneration is the macula. The macula sits at the back of your eye and is made up of millions of light-sensing cells. When it gets injured or begins to deteriorate, you are at risk of losing your central vision.

Two forms of age-related macular degeneration

AMD is divided into two general categories, dry AMD (DAMD) and wet AMD (WAMD):

DAMD

Approximately 90 percent of people diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration have DAMD. This is an early stage of the disease and occurs when small white or yellow deposits, called drusen, begin to form on the retina just beneath the macula. This may be asymptomatic or may cause slow gradual vision loss over time.

WAMD

If the disease progresses into wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels begin growing under or near retina (toward the macula), which may leak blood and fluid. WAMD typically causes a sudden and more severe loss of vision and can be treated with intraocular injections of medication

While there is no known cure, there are techniques and tools available to help you learn how to live a full life with AMD, including:

  • Intravitreal injections
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
  • A combination of these treatments

If you’re in need of age-related macular degeneration treatment in Austin or treatment for other eye conditions, call the skilled ophthalmologists and eye surgeons at Austin Retina Associates at 877-925-7649. We’ll help safeguard your central ‘fine’ vision from age-related vision loss.

What Are the Best Treatments for Retinal Tears?

How important is your retina? As the key to clear vision, the retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. Through the cornea, pupil and lens, we focus light rays onto the retina. The retina converts those light rays into impulses that travel through the optic nerve to our brain, where they are translated into our vision.

When a retinal tear occurs, you may see new floaters (small dots, specks or strings or clouds moving in your field of vision) or flashes of light. If a retinal tear is left untreated, it can progress to a retinal detachment, which can appear like a dark curtain moving toward your central vision. A retinal detachment is a very serious medical condition that almost always causes blindness unless it is treated. That’s why we provide advanced diagnosis and 24/7 treatment of retinal tears in Austin.

Treatment for retinal tears

At Austin Retina Associates, we begin by thoroughly assessing your retinal condition. Then we will recommend a procedure (or may discuss several treatment options) with you.

“Most retinal tears are treated during in-office procedures,” says Dr. Peter Nixon, “However, if a retinal tear progresses to a retinal detachment, surgery is almost always required at a local surgery center or hospital under either local or general anesthesia. Most patients go home the same day.”

Treatment options for retinal tears include:

  • Laser surgery (photocoagulation) – During this procedure, a laser is used to make small burns around the retinal tear. The scarring that results seals the retina to the underlying tissue, helping to prevent a retinal detachment.
  • Freezing treatment (cryopexy) – A special freezing probe is applied to the sclera (white part of the eye); freezing the retina around the retinal tear. The result is a scar that helps secure the retina to the eye wall.

Innovative treatments for retinal tears, from some of the best in Texas

At Austin Retina Associates, protecting your vision has been our mission for more than 30 years. Since 1978, we have led the way in specialized retinal care, using leading-edge technologies to preserve and protect the vision of millions of Central Texans. From retinal tears to macular degeneration to treating and managing diabetic eye disease, you and your family can count on our unfailing dedication to your healthy vision. If you think you may have a retinal tear, please call us immediately at 877-925-7649 and relay your symptoms to us.

To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified retina specialists, call 877-925-7649 or use our online form for non-urgent symptoms to request your appointment today.