What to Expect at Your First Retina Appointment

Your first appointment with a retina specialist can seem daunting. Patients aren’t always sure of what to expect, what’s needed of them, and what the experience will entail. On top of these concerns, if you’re visiting our office, you are dealing with a retina issue that could be impeding your quality of life and daily activities.

Our goal is to offer a world-class patient experience – from the moment you enter our door to the moment you leave – that is stress-free. Our teams are highly trained and dedicated to treating you with the utmost respect and compassion.

Your First Visit
A first appointment/consultation with our office is highly comprehensive. Patients can be surprised at the amount of time required for a first visit, but in order to provide effective care, we need to have as much information about your retina situation as possible. Most patients will need to spend around 2-3 hours with us during the exam process, which includes:

  • Preliminary imaging
  • The screening process
  • A full examination by your doctor
  • Additional diagnostic testing (if needed); some additional testing can be performed same-day
  • Treatment (if needed); some treatment can be performed same-day

How can I prepare for my visit?
For your first appointment, you will be given the opportunity to complete your new patient paperwork online. If you do not wish to complete necessary paperwork prior to your visit or need further assistance, we kindly recommend that you arrive 15 minutes early.

Please be sure to bring the following with you:

  • Your insurance card
  • If your insurance requires a physician referral, please obtain the referral prior to your appointment.
  • A photo ID
  • List of any medications you are taking (including eye glasses and eye drops)
  • A confirmed plan to travel home safely
  • Your eyes will be dilated during your visit, making your vision blurry and your eyes more sensitive to light for several hours. If you are not using public transportation, or do not feel comfortable driving yourself home, please consider arranging transportation.

You can learn more about your first appointment with Austin Retina here. Please see this webpage for PDF versions of our new patient paperwork in both English and Spanish, as well as our Notice of Privacy Practices.

If you’d like to schedule an appointment with our practice today, please call 800-252-8259 or complete an online contact form.

Diagnostic Testing Provided by Austin Retina

When patients visit Austin Retina for the purposes of specialized evaluation and diagnostic testing, we understand that they’ve likely already visited with an eye doctor and require further assistance in order to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

At Austin Retina, we offer a variety of diagnostic testing services designed to both correctly identify an issue and assist in the formal diagnosis and later treatment of our patients. Check out our range of diagnostic testing services and contact our office to learn more, refer a patient, or schedule an appointment (or call 800-252-8259).

At Austin Retina, we offer the following diagnostic testing options:

  • Spectral Domain OCT (high-resolution OCT)
  • OCT angiography (noninvasive high-resolution evaluation of the retinal and choroidal microvasculature)
  • Wide-field Fluorescein Angiography (for the evaluation of peripheral retinal pathology)
  • Wide-field Indocyanine Green Angiography (useful in evaluating diseases of the choroid such as central serous retinopathy and polypoidal choroidal vasculopathy, as well as intraocular tumors)
  • B-scan Ultrasound (for evaluation of the retina when view of the retina is limited, and for evaluation of tumors)
  • Anterior Segment Ultrasound Biomicroscopy (for evaluation of the iris and ciliary body)
  • ERG
  • Visual Field Testing

We encourage anyone who believes they can benefit from our testing services, or any doctor with a patient in need of further testing services, to move forward with scheduling an appointment with our practice. Vision issues should always be taken seriously, especially since many conditions can be treated effectively with early detection. We’re committed to making the testing process as noninvasive as possible – regardless of the test required. Patients are thoroughly prepped ahead of any test or procedure so they know what to expect.

Please contact Austin Retina for any questions you may have about our diagnostic testing services. You can call our office during normal business hours at 800-252-8259 or book an appointment online today.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Did you know that diabetic retinopathy is the current leading cause of blindness in adults in the U.S.? The condition is serious, but the fortunate news for patients is that with proper screening, a majority of devastating vision loss is preventable. We encourage patients with diabetes to make regular annual visits to an eye care professional a priority, particularly as they age. Spending an hour or less at your doctor’s office once a year could mean the difference between potentially losing all vision and effective treatment that prevents such a loss.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that occurs in the retina that generally results from chronically elevated blood glucose levels. Glycosylation of these blood vessels can lead to breakdown of blood vessel walls, leakage and swelling and ultimately decreased vision. In addition, unstable new blood vessels can form that can break and bleed, which can also lead to decreased vision.

Diabetic retinopathy, although the leading cause of blindness in patients under the age of 55 in the US, is largely preventable with proper screening and treatment.

On top FA/FP moderate NPDR, bottom FA/FP severe PDR with NVD, NVE, and ischemia. (Fluorescein Angiogram/Fundus Photo).

How is diabetic retinopathy diagnosed?

Up to 60% of diabetic patients are not properly screened for diabetic retinopathy. Proper screening can consist of yearly visits to an eye care professional or, more recently, telemedicine screening visits in a primary care setting. Through local telemedicine partnerships, Austin Retina is pleased to have seen up to 80% compliance rates, ultimately saving the sight of thousands.

Once any diabetic retinopathy is detected on initial screening, other testing modalities such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and fluorescein angiogram imaging are employed. OCT is an excellent tool used to detect subtle changes in macular thickness, which often occurs in early diabetic maculopathy. Optos fluorescein angiogram wide-angle imaging is critical in analyzing the peripheral retina for ischemia and neovascularization, both of which can be easily missed by direct examination or routine photography.

OCT (optical coherence tomography) – Image of a patient with diabetic retinopathy.

How is diabetic retinopathy treated?

The two critical variables for control of diabetic retinopathy are blood pressure and blood glucose.

Controlling blood glucose (hemoglobin A1C less than 7%) limits the destruction that can occur from glycosylation of small blood vessels in the retina. In most cases, this can be achieved through diet and exercise. Controlling blood pressure decreases the amount of leakage and swelling that can occur from these already damaged blood vessels.

The newest treatments for diabetic retinopathy involve the use of medications that can be effective not only in stabilizing the condition but also in restoring vision. These medications are injected into the eye through an office-based procedure called an intravitreal injection. This relatively painless injection through the white part of the eye is performed after the eye is thoroughly anesthetized with topical eye drops. Additionally, medications such as Eylea, Lucentis, and Avastin have the potential to improve vision by reducing the amount of macular edema caused by diabetic retinopathy.

Do you have questions? Please contact Austin Retina directly so we can assist. You can request an appointment online here or call our office at 800-252-8259 during normal business hours.

Three Commonly Misdiagnosed Retinal Conditions

It can be difficult for doctors and patients alike to understand why a medical misdiagnosis has taken place. However, there are many reasons why an incorrect diagnosis could occur. One reason is that there are countless medical conditions that can closely mirror one another – even to such a degree that a trained and experienced medical professional with advanced diagnostic equipment could choose one condition over the correct issue.

One of the ways the medical industry (including the field of retina care) works to reduce instances of misdiagnoses is to better educate the community, particularly in cases where the condition is well known for being misdiagnosed. At Austin Retina Associates, we want to ensure that our doctors are armed with all available knowledge for patient care and that patients can feel confident in the decisions their doctors are making.

Three Commonly Misdiagnosed Retinal Conditions

Macular Hole

Often, patients who are referred to our practice by another doctor have been told that they have a macular hole, but what they actually have is a lamellar macular hole. The reason the two conditions are confused is that a macular hole is simply a more severe version of a lamellar macular hole. To further illustrate:

  • A macular hole extends through all of the retina layers; a lamellar macular hole does not.
  • A macular hole requires surgical treatment; a lamellar macular hole usually isn’t treated with surgery unless the patient’s vision worsens.

Retinoschisis

Sometimes, patients who were told that they have a retinal detachment actually have a condition called peripheral retinoschisis. The reason why the two conditions can be confused is that both feature an elevated retina. However, peripheral retinoschisis has a very thin appearing retina, a particular shape, and sometimes have white dots in its bed which distinguish it from a retinal detachment. The distinction is important since a retinal detachment is sight-threatening and treated with surgery while a peripheral retinoschisis is not sight-threatening and is observed.

Central Retinal Vein Occlusion

The presence of scattered blot hemorrhages in all four quadrants can be seen in both central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) and diabetic retinopathy. Both conditions can also cause visually significant macular edema. The difference between the two conditions ultimately lies in a CRVO diagnosis usually includes venous tortuosity and disc edema. We understand that what makes one retina condition different from another can be found in minute details. Many conditions are quite similar in nature, making a medical misdiagnosis both possible and unfortunately common. The ultimate goal is to never put a patient in a position where they lack confidence in their referring doctor or undergo unnecessary treatment. This is why our practice enjoys so many patient referrals and second opinion requests in order to help ensure the best possible patient care. If you have questions about any of the above conditions or would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our practice today.

Why Should I Participate in a Clinical Trial?

At Austin Retina Associates, we understand that there are a number of misconceptions patients may have about what it means to participate in a clinical trial. These misconceptions are unsurprising, as clinical trials, particularly modern ones, are not part of our normal, everyday conversations.

We hope that the information below will help describe the reality of being in a clinical trial and the many potential benefits of the process. Of course, if you have questions or are interested in a specific clinical trial with our practice, please contact our staff today.

What is a clinical trial? And are they safe?

Clinical trials are scientific medical research initiatives into the appropriateness, effectiveness and safety of new treatments in humans. The goal of a clinical trial, whether for a vision-related issue or other health problem, is to improve patient care and advance medical knowledge. And yes, they are safe as long as they are conducted by reputable, experienced organizations, such as Austin Retina Associates.

Why do clinical trials exist?

Clinical trials present an opportunity for patients to try medications and treatments that might not otherwise be available because the scientific community is not yet fully confident in their success (e.g. not yet FDA approved), but believe that the highest possible quality of data can be achieved while ensuring patient safety. This means that, at the completion of the trial, those involved will have possibly found successful treatment and such treatment can move forward toward use for the general population.

Here are some core benefits to clinical trial participation at Austin Retina:

  • Participants will (potentially) have access to the newest and most advanced drug(s) ahead of FDA approval.
  • The “worst case scenario” for participation is that a patient would receive standard care.
  • Participants enjoy “extra” care as being involved in a trial includes additional blood testing or imagining – all of which are carefully monitored by the trial’s clinical team.
  • There is no cost to the patient – ever. Patients might even receive a stipend.
  • Patients are connected with a main coordinator throughout the trial for every visit over the course of 6/12/24 months – A true VIP experience.
  • A trial is an opportunity to receive potential treatment when no other remedy is currently available.

Who is a good candidate for a clinical trial?

The answer to this is very dependent on the type of clinical trial being offered and the symptoms and condition a patient is experiencing. For example, a patient may have condition “X” but not display any symptoms relating to a specific clinical trial, so they would not be a good fit for that trial. Of course, your doctor is the best resource for advice regarding clinical trials that are applicable to your individual situation.

We recommend that you connect with your doctor in order to determine whether there is a trial you can participate in. Your doctor will only recommend a trial if he or she believes it will be of significant benefit to your health – having someone enter into a clinical trial is not taken lightly or without real consideration.

How do I find out whether I can participate in a clinical trial?

As noted, your doctor is the one to talk to about participating in a clinical trial. At Austin Retina, we frequently enroll patients in open clinical trials when possible. Sometimes, a clinical trial can reach capacity and we are unable to continue enrollment. You can learn more about trials that are currently open for enrollment here. You can also contact our office to ask about clinical trial participation today.