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The retina is the layer of nerve cells lining the back wall inside the eye. This layer senses light and sends signals to the brain so you can see. Our physicians specialize in diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases and conditions of the retina that can cause permanent damage to your eyes and lead to blindness.

Regular eye exams are particularly important in detection of retinal problems. Many retinal diseases do not exhibit symptoms in the early and intermediate stages. Our ophthalmologists can perform tests to detect early signs of disease before signs of vision loss occur. The sooner retinal problems are detected and treated, the better your long-term vision outcomes.

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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness in the United States. It is very important for diabetics to be proactive and work closely with an ophthalmologist to monitor their eye health. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness. With early detection, approximately 90% percent of diabetes-related vision loss can be prevented.

High blood sugar levels cause blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (called the retina) to swell, leak, and even close, stopping blood from passing through. If the disease progresses, abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina and can cause scar tissue. The condition begins with blurry vision and can lead to dark floaters and eventual loss of central and peripheral (side) vision.

The following are symptoms of diabetic retinopathy and other diabetes related eye problems:

• Fluctuating vision
• Eye floaters and spots
• Development of partial loss of vision
• blind spot or shadow in your field of view
• Blurry and/or distorted vision
• Double vision
• Eye pain
• Near vision problems unrelated to presbyopia (normal loss of near focusing ability that occurs with age)
• Cataracts

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Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration, also called age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a deterioration of the macula, the central area of the retina that controls the sharpness of your vision. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among people over 50 years old.

The disease typically is marked by slow, painless loss of central vision, although in rare cases, vision loss can be sudden. Signs of vision loss from AMD include shadowy, wavy or blurred vision. Although peripheral vision will still be normal, because the deteriorating macula is responsible for fine details, AMD will impact your ability to read, recognize faces, drive, watch television, and use a computer.

In the early to intermediate stages of AMD, you will not experience vision loss, but your doctor can diagnose the condition by the presence of yellow protein deposits beneath your retina, called drusen, as well as pigment changes in the retina. A testing tool called an Amsler grid may also be used to identify problem spots in your field of vision that may not otherwise be obvious and indicate a need for further testing.

AMD is diagnosed as either “dry” or “wet”. There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for dry AMD however, your ophthalmologist can advise if you may benefit from taking daily vitamin and mineral supplements. Wet AMD is a less common progression of dry AMD to a more damaging form of the disease. There are medications administered by a very slender needle that can help treat wet. Laser surgery may also be used to treat AMD in some patients.

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Retinal Tear or Detachment
Sometimes tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous called “floaters” will cast shadows on the retina, and you may sometimes see.
As we age, the vitreous, the clear gel that fills the eyeball and is attached to the retina at the back of the eye, may shrink and pull on the retina. If the vitreous pulls hard enough, it may tear the retina. Fluid may pass through a retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye, causing the retina to detach or pull away.

Symptoms of a retinal tear or retinal detachment may include:

• A sudden increase in size and number of floaters, small dots, specks, strings or clouds moving in your field of vision
• A sudden appearance of flashes that look like lightning streaks or the sensation of seeing “stars”
• Shadow in the periphery (side) of your field of vision
• A gray curtain moving across your field of vision
• A sudden decrease in your vision

A retinal tear or a detached retina is repaired with a surgical procedure. Based on your specific condition, your ophthalmologist will discuss the type of procedure recommended.

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Schedule an appointment
Floaters and flashes are common and do not always mean you have a retinal tear or detachment. If any of the symptoms above suddenly become more severe and you notice a loss in vision, contact us immediately at (803) 779-3070 to schedule an eye examination at any of our four convenient clinic locations.

Pre/Post Operative Instructions 
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Derek L. Barker, M.D. Pre-Op Instructions
Derek L. Barker, M.D. Post-Op Instructions