The retina lies at the back of the eye and contains millions of photoreceptors. There are two types of photoreceptors in the retina called rods and cones; these capture the light. Cones work best in bright light and give us color vision. Rods function best in dim lighting and are the tools that give us peripheral and night vision.

There are a number of conditions that affect healthy functioning of the retina.

Retinal Detachment

The retina is a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue on the back wall of the eye.  When the retina becomes separated from its supportive tissue, you are in danger of losing your eyesight. Initial detachment may be localized, but without rapid treatment, the entire retina may detach. Injury or trauma to the eye or head may cause a small tear in the retina. The tear allows vitreous fluid to seep through it under the retina, and peel it away. Signs of a detached retina include seeing spots, floaters and flashes of light, blurry vision or dark “curtain” descending from the top or sweeping across from the side of your vision.

Macular Degeneration

This occurs when the macula, the part of the retina that lets us see clearly enough to read, drive and perform other detail-oriented tasks, starts to deteriorate. It affects your central vision, but not your peripheral vision; thus, it does not cause total blindness. Still, the loss of clear central vision greatly affects your quality of life. The condition tends to develop as you get older, hence the “age-related” part of its name. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people age 60 and older. The damage caused by macular degeneration cannot be reversed, but early detection and treatment may help reduce the extent of vision loss.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetics are more likely to develop eye problems including cataracts and glaucoma. However, diabetic retinopathy is the main threat to vision. Over time, diabetes affects the circulatory system of the retina. The earliest phase of the disease is known as background diabetic retinopathy. In this phase, the arteries in the retina become weakened and leak, forming small, dot-like hemorrhages. These leaking vessels often lead to swelling or edema in the retina and decreased vision.

Ocular Tumor

Eye tumors may occur in the eye, the lid, the orbit (the bones surrounding the eye) and the lacrimal (tear) glands. Some common ocular cancers include choroidal melanoma, choroidal hemangioma, retinoblastoma, eyelid tumor, conjunctival tumor, and lymphoma/leukemia.

Macular Holes

A macular hole is a small break in the macula, located in the center of the eye’s light-sensitive tissue called the retina. The macula provides the sharp, central vision we need for reading, driving, and seeing fine detail. A macular hole can cause blurred and distorted central vision. Macular holes are related to aging and usually occur in people over age 60. Macular holes may heal spontaneously, but usually require surgery.

Macular Puckers

A macular pucker occurs when a membrane-like scar tissue forms over the macula, causing blurred and distorted vision. Officially known as epi-retinal membrane (ERM). Most macular puckers do not call for treatment as the patient adapts to mild visual distortion. However, when ERM caused vision to severely deteriorate a vitrectomy may be performed. During this procedure, vitreous gel is removed from the inside of the eye and replace with a salt solution. At the same time the scar tissue, which causes the wrinkling, is removed. At Rocky Mountain Eye Center, P.C. vitrectomies are performed in our ambulatory surgery center under local anesthesia.


Floaters appear when tiny clumps of cells form in the vitreous fluid (a gel-like substance that fills about 80 percent of the eye and helps it maintain a round shape) inside your eye and cast shadows on the retina. They move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly. They do not follow your eye movements precisely, and usually drift when your eyes stop moving. Although floaters can be annoying, they are generally harmless. However, if you suddenly see an increase in the number of floaters or are accompanied by flashes of light or peripheral vision loss see your Rocky Mountain Eye doctor immediately.

Meet Our Retina Specialists:

Scott M. Guess, MD
Jacek Kotowski, M.D.

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