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Retinal disease

The retina is the inner surface of the eye that converts patterns of light into electrical impulses that are sent towards the brain. At the central part of the retina is a region specialised for viewing small details called the macula.

There are many ways of examining the retina, and for many years we have used a microscope and a digital camera. These methods view the retinal surface, but cannot spot conditions that start within or underneath the retina. We were the first clinic in the area to invest in an OCT scan that generates cross-sectional images. This has now been upgraded to SPECTRALIS, which is a muti-image modality imaging platform that lets us view the retinal structure in more detail so early problems will not be missed and we can be more certain in diagnosis.

Common retinal diseases that we look for in our comprehensive eye examinations are listed below.

retina 1

Age-related macular degeneration

In macular degeneration the cells in the centre of the retina don't work normally.

It is important to know if macular degeneration is dry or wet, but this is often impossible with standard tests that only view the retinal surface. This is the main reason why we invested in the best imaging technology, so less of our patients lose vision to macular degeneration.

retina 2

Cystoid macular oedema

A collection of cyst-like bubbles of fluid within the retina at the centre of the macula.

This condition most commonly occurs following cataract surgery as a result of post-operative inflammation. Macular oedema may also accompany many other conditions, such as retinal vein occlusion, uveitis and diabetes.

retina 3

Diabetic retinopathy

Over several years, a high blood glucose (sugar) level can weaken and damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina. The blood vessels may swell and leak fluid or abnormal new blood vessels can begin to grow. The first leads to water-logging of the retina, and the second is associated with bleeding into the jelly of the eye and the retina being pulled from its normal position.

retina 4

Epiretinal membrane

A sheet of fibrous tissue that develops on the surface of the macula. Over time it may contract and causes the underlying retina to become wrinkled, and this leads to distorted vision.

We are able to reliably identify these membranes by using the SPECTRALIS imaging system. This is important because they are often confused with age-related macular degeneration, but they are treated very differently.

retina 5

Hypertensive retinopathy

Hypertension causes alterations to blood vessels throughout the body, but the inside of the eye is the only place where they can be viewed directly. It is for this reason that eye examinations have an important role in identifying people who have early warning signs for organ damage associated with hypertension.

retina 6

Macular hole

A hole in the macula that leads to blurring, blank spots and distortion of central vision. As we age, the vitreous jelly inside the eye naturally shrinks and pulls away from the retina. Occasionally, the vitreous pulls on the retina and creates a macular hole. Some vision can be restored with an operation to remove the vitreous if detected early.

retina 7

Retinal detachment

A separation of the retina from the back of the eye.

We have been trained to use specialist lenses that let us examine the far periphery of the retina. This is very difficult to do and not a standard procedure for optometrists, but is very important because most retinal detachments start at the edge of the retina.

retina 8


These range from harmless curiosities to more serious disease. Although eye cancer is rare, it is reassuring that our optometrists, through working in hospitals, have encountered far more cases than most community-based opticians. This means that they are better able to recognise features that should warrant onward referral.

retina 9

Vascular disease

Blockages in the blood vessels at the back of the eye have the same causes as vascular problems elsewhere in the body. The effect is often a sudden loss of vision. Sometimes this is not immediately noticed because only a non-central part of one eye is affected.

In these cases, our priority is to decide whether you need an emergency assessment in a stroke clinic, or referral to the Eye Hospital.

Get in Touch

Telephone: (01454) 411760

7 Chapel Street, Thornbury, BS35 2BJ

Opening hours

Monday - Wednesday 8:45 - 5:30
Thursday 8:45 - 7.00
Friday 8:45 - 5:30
Saturday 9.00 - 4.00