Retina Eye Health – When To Seek Care

Matthew Karl Matthew D. Karl, MD

Ophthalmologist and Vitreoretinal Surgeon
Stony Brook Ophthalmology

Whether from aging, illness or injury, there are a number of disorders that can affect the health of your retina and vitreous. Early treatment of the full spectrum of retinal conditions is the best way to ensure your healthy vision. In recognition of National Retina Awareness Month and Healthy Vision Month, Dr. Matthew Karl, a board-certified ophthalmologist with expertise in managing medical and surgical diseases of the vitreous and retina, explains why eye health is so important.

What are some diseases of the retina?
Some common problems that can affect your retina are:

• Diabetic retinopathy (bleeding or swelling due to high blood sugar)

• Vein occlusions (bleeding or swelling due to blockage of a blood vessel)

• Macular degeneration (affecting the central part of the retina, the macula, which results in distortion or loss of central vision)

• Macular holes (a small gap that opens at the center of the retina)

• Retinal detachments (an emergency situation in which the retina pulls away from the layer of blood vessels that provides it with oxygen and nutrients)

• Vitreous hemorrhage (bleeding inside the eye)

• Epiretinal membranes (a thin layer of scar tissue that can form over top of the eye’s macula)

How can these retina conditions be prevented/treated?
Problems in the eye that are caused by diabetes, hypertension or other systemic conditions are typically preventable with good control of the underlying problem. Even problems that are not preventable, like macular degeneration, are highly treatable when they do arise.

What are some of the warning signs of a damaged retina?
The most common warning signs of a problem are loss of vision, flashes of light and a new onset of dark blots or spots in the vision, which are also called floaters.

What are the most common surgical techniques to repair a damaged retina?
Some retina problems are treated right in our Stony Brook Ophthalmology office with injections of medicine into the eye (after the eye has been completely numbed) or laser. When surgery is required in the operating room, a vitrectomy (removal of the vitreous humor gel that fills the eye cavity) is performed, which allows a surgeon to access the back of your eye through a tiny keyhole. I sometimes use other tools including scleral buckles and gas or oil bubbles to help the retina stay attached.

How often should patients get eye exams?
Anyone who has new loss of vision, especially with flashes or floaters, should try to get an eye exam the same day or next day. Otherwise, patients who have no history of any eye problems and have no symptoms should start getting routine eye exams with their local ophthalmologist or optometrist at age 40, or even before if they have a history of diabetes or high blood pressure.

Is there a difference between an exam of the retina and a general eye exam?
A retina exam usually occurs after you’ve been referred by your general eye doctor and tends to be more extensive than a general eye exam. At your initial visit, both eyes are dilated and a series of specialized pictures and scans of your retina are performed. Based on the results of the imaging and exam, you may be able to have treatment in the office at the same visit. The initial visit with a retina specialist sometimes takes two to three hours.

For more information about Stony Brook Ophthalmology, or to schedule an eye exam in our Commack or East Setauket office, call (631) 444-4090.


The best way to prevent retinal and other eye conditions is to take the following steps:

Eat eye-healthy foods like green leafy vegetables; salmon, tuna and other oily fish; eggs, nuts, beans and other non-meat protein sources; oranges and other citrus fruits or juices; and oysters and pork.

In addition:

• Look away from the computer screen.

• Visit your eye doctor regularly.

• Use safety eyewear.

• Don’t smoke.

• Wear sunglasses.