For Patients

Patient Education

Q. What is a retina specialist?

Retina specialists are ophthalmologists (eye doctors) that monitor and treat only diseases of the retina. The retina is the innermost layer of the posterior part of the eye that receives images and transmits them to the brain.

As board certified physicians, retina specialists are required to complete a two-year fellowship beyond the standard ophthalmology residency. Click here for Our Team of Retina Specialists.

Q. What should I expect on my first visit?

As with all medical appointments, you will be required to fill out basic medical paperwork. If you are referred by another physician it is likely that they will provide a new patient packet for you to fill out before you come in for your appointment. They are also available on our website. Along with your paperwork, please be sure to bring a photo ID and your insurance card. Any co-pays will be collected upon checking in. A technician will conduct a standard work up which includes recording medical history and visual complaints, checking visual acuity, intraocular pressure, ocular motility, confrontational visual fields and pupillary reaction. You will also be given eye drops to dilate your pupils. Once a retinal scan, called an OCT, is performed, you will be ready for your examination with the physician. Additional testing may be required at the doctor’s discretion.

Q. Do you perform treatments in the office?

The vast majority of treatments for retinal conditions are able to be performed in the office, the same day. Many of the conditions, such as exudative (wet) macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema and vascular occlusions are treated by injecting medicine directly into the eye. Despite how gruesome this sounds, there is rarely any pain associated with this type of treatment. The eye is numbed and sterilized before the injection and most patients only notice a mild feeling of pressure during the injection. Laser procedures are available in each of our offices and are used to treat certain forms of diabetic retinopathy, retinal holes/tears and, in some cases, vascular occlusions and exudative macular degeneration. Depending on the severity and position, retinal detachments may also be treated in office. Some retinal conditions cannot be treated in office and may require out-patient surgery. These surgeries are scheduled at a later date at a local hospital or ambulatory surgery center in order of urgency.

Q. Can I drive myself to my appointment(s)?

We do recommend that you are accompanied by another individual, at least for your initial appointment. Both of your eyes will be dilated, causing blurry vision and affecting your ability to adjust to sunlight as well as your ability to drive. Future appointments will be left to your discretion.

Q. What should I expect after my visit?

Your eyes will be dilated for an average of 4-6 hours. During this time, you will have difficulty reading and adjusting to bright lights. If you do receive an injection, you can expect the treated eye to be red and irritated until the following day. Although it is impossible to determine when and if it will happen, there are instances where the injected eye does become bloodshot. The eye could appear like this for up to two weeks, but it does not cause any damage.

Q. If I get the shots for my macular degeneration, will that cure it?

The injections for Macular Degeneration, are designed to slow down the disease not cure it.

Q. How long will I be dilated?

The average time of dilation is between 4 and 6 hours. Some people are more sensitive to the drops and can be dilated longer. If you find your eyes are still dilated the day after your appointment, there is no need to worry. The dilation should go away by the end of that day.

Q. Will I be able to drive after I am dilated?

There are no restrictions on driving while you are dilated. It is advised that you wear a pair of sunglasses when you leave so the sun does not hurt your eyes. We provide sunglasses for patients who do not have any or have forgotten to bring them to the appointment. If you don’t feel safe driving, then it is recommended that you bring someone who can drive you home afterwards.

Q. I have always been told that carrots are great for the eyes. Is this true?

Carrots are high in vitamin A, which is a nutrient essential for eye health and good vision. Eating carrots will provide you with small amounts of vitamin A needed for good vision. Vitamin A is not limited to "rabbit food", it can also be found in milk, cheese, egg yolk, and liver. The myth that carrots improve your eyesight may have its roots in a World War II propaganda campaign. During the war, the British Royal Air Force developed a new type of radar technology that helped pilots shoot down German enemy planes at night, according to Smithsonian Magazine. But in order to keep the new technology a secret, the government said carrots were behind the pilots' success. Advertisements during the war touted the benefits of carrots for nighttime vision, including one that read "Carrots keep you healthy and help you see in the blackout," Smithsonian Magazine says. Carrots are, however, a good source Vitamin A which is good for eye health.

Q. I keep hearing about eye vitamins. Do they prevent macular degeneration?

The National Institutes of Health conducted an Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDs) and found that of the 3,600 patients in the study, the supplements showed a 25% reduction in risk for developing advanced macular disease in patients with intermediate stage AMD. It also showed a 19% reduction in vision loss for people with intermediate AMD in both eyes and advanced Dry or Wet AMD in only one eye. It is important to talk to your doctor about your stage of AMD and whether the AREDs formula is right for you.

Q. What are the different types of retinal detachments?

There are three different types of retinal detachment:

Rhegmatogenous [reg-ma-TAH-jenous] — A tear or break in the retina allows fluid to get under the retina and separate it from the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), the pigmented cell layer that nourishes the retina. These types of retinal detachments are the most common.

Tractional — In this type of detachment, scar tissue on the retina’s surface contracts and causes the retina to separate from the RPE. This type of detachment is less common.

Exudative — Frequently caused by retinal diseases, including inflammatory disorders and injury/trauma to the eye. In this type, fluid leaks into the area underneath the retina, but there are no tears or breaks in the retina.

Q. Should I be on eye vitamins even if I don't have macular degeneration?

Eye vitamins have the FDA recommended dosages of certain minerals and vitamins that have been shown in clinical studies to improve eye health. Ask your doctor if you should be taking them for your eyes.

Q. Will eye supplements cure my macular degeneration?

No. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Age Related Macular Degeneration. However, through clinical trials (CATT Study) eye vitamins called ARED’s have been shown to help keep the retina tissue healthy.

Q. Why do you have to check my vision today? You just checked it last week!

Vision can change suddenly from one day to the next, especially if you are being followed for certain retinal disorders. Our technicians check your vision so that the doctor has up-to-date knowledge as to how your eyes are doing.

Q. Why do I have to wait so long to see the Doctor when I got here on time?

Our practice specializes in diseases of the retina. By the nature of our specialty, these conditions often cannot wait several weeks or months to be seen and patients are often added to the schedule on an emergent basis. As a courtesy to our patients and our referring doctors, retinal conditions are also treated the same day as the exam. In addition, some patients require special testing and procedures that can make their appointment longer. These factors, in turn, can cause a delay for others.

Q. How long will my appointment take?

For new patients, an appointment can take a few hours. For returning patients, appointments vary depending on the number of tests being performed in clinic and can be from an hour to around three hours.

Q. I have family members with macular degeneration and glaucoma. Do I need to have an eye exam?

It is always a good eye idea to have your eyes checked periodically by an ophthalmologist. If you have family with certain eye diseases that can be hereditary, it is a good idea to have your eyes checked annually by an ophthalmologist. This way, if you are diagnosed with a treatable disease, the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome will be for your vision.

Q. Why do you always ask me what medications I am taking when most are over the counter supplements?

Many over the counter medicines and supplements can have an effect on your eyes. Some can even be dangerous if you have certain diseases. It is best to discuss this with one of our physicians at your next visit if you are concerned.

Q. What is the difference between an Optometrist and an Ophthalmologist?

An Ophthalmologist — Eye M.D. — is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists and opticians in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat. As a medical doctor who has completed college and at least eight years of additional medical training, an ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. They can practice medicine and surgery.

Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. An optometrist is not a medical doctor. An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of optometry school, preceded by three years or more years of college. They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases.

Q. Should I wear UV protection sunglasses when I go outside?

Although direct sunlight from the sun itself is extremely damaging to eyes, reflected ultraviolet (UV) rays can be even more dangerous. For example, grass, soil, and water reflect less than 10% of the UV radiation, but fresh snow reflects as much as 80%, dry sand about 15%, and sea foam about 25%. And because you’re more likely to look down than up, there is a difference in the amount of UV light reflected directly into your eyes. Hats with brims offer no protection from UV rays reflected up from surfaces such as pavement, sand, and water.

Q. Do eye flashes and floaters need treatment?

Not always. Many floaters are harmless and your brain will eventually get used to them, but you should have an eye doctor check if you experience new floaters. See your doctor within 24 hours if you see flashes of light and have never experienced them before and if a floater is large enough to interfere with your vision.

Q. What causes eye floaters and flashes?

Your eye is filled with a clear gel called the vitreous. Changes in this gel cause most eye floaters. You see flashes when the vitreous gel rubs against the retina or pulls on it. This can be easier to see in the dark or when you move your eyes.

Q. Are eye floaters and flashes serious?

They can be. Seeing flashes of light or a new floater or many floaters suddenly (like a snow globe being shook up) can be a sign that the vitreous gel is pulling on your retina. The retina is the tissue at the back of the eye that receives images. A torn or damaged retina can cause vision loss and this vision loss is sometimes permanent. If you have a retina tear and the vitreous gel goes through that tear, it can push the retina out of its normal position. Doctors call this a “retinal detachment” which is a serious condition that is treated with surgery.

Q. How soon should I call my Doctor if I have age-related macular degeneration?

You should call your eye doctor immediately if:

  • You have a sudden, rapid loss of vision.
  • You suddenly notice a new blank or dark spot in the center of your vision that does not go away.
  • Straight lines appear wavy or curved, or objects begin to change size or shape or appear distorted.

Q. If I have age-related macular degeneration, how soon should I call if I notice a change in my Amsler Grid?

Call your doctor immediately if:

  • Lines that change or appear wavy and curved.
  • A blank spot that you have not noticed before on the grid.