Retinal Damage: Symptoms, Who Is At Risk, And How It Can Be Diagnosed And Treated

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Retinal Damage: Symptoms, Who Is At Risk, And How It Can Be Diagnosed And Treated

The retina is a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye that senses light, converts it into neural signals, and sends those light signals to the brain. The retina plays a vital role in vision, and any damage to it can negatively affect your vision. Retinal damage can be caused by a variety of issues, including age, light damage, and trauma, but all forms of retinal damage can lead to vision impairment and lower quality of life. The best way to detect retinal damage is to have retinal imaging done during your annual eye exam and to be aware if you start to experience any of the following symptoms, particularly if you’re at risk for retinal damage.

What You Need To Know About Retinal Damage


If you suffer from any of the following, see your Calgary eye doctor:

  • Dim central vision
  • Distorted central vision
  • Straight lines that appear wavy
  • Spots in the central vision that appear blurry or dark
  • Reappearing and disappearing images
  • Double vision
  • Frequent floaters
  • Flashing lights
  • Seeing halos around light sources
  • A grey curtain blocking your vision
  • Peripheral shadows
  • Blind spot
  • Overall decrease in quality of vision

Who Is At Risk

People who:

  • Are older
  • Are smokers
  • Are obese
  • Have diabetes or other diseases
  • Have suffered eye trauma
  • Have a history of retinal diseases in their family
  • Suffer from chronic stress
  • Are on steroidal medication
  • Misuse drugs
  • Have heart disease
  • Have other circulatory issues

What Is Retinal Detachment?

Retinal detachment is an eye emergency where the retina pulls away from it’s regular place at the back of the eye. When the retina detaches, it is disconnected from its source of oxygen and nourishment, and if it is not reattached in a short period of time your vision can be permanently affected. The main signs of retinal detachment are a grey shadow or curtain over your vision, blurred vision, flashes of light, reduced peripheral vision, and a sudden increase in floaters. If you experience these symptoms, it is a severe eye emergency and you must call an ophthalmologist immediately. The faster your retina becomes reattached, the better chance there is of vision restoration.

How It Can Be Diagnosed

Before your retinal damage can be treated, the type of damage has to be determined. Visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam, where they might administer some or all of these tests.

  • Retinal imaging. This type of retinal photo shows the back of the eye, allowing the optometrist to look at the optic disk and blood vessels
  • Fundus autofluorescence (FAF). FAF highlights a retinal pigment called lipofuscin that further damages the retina.
  • Fluorescein angiography. This test uses dye to make blood vessels in the retina more visible so that closed blood vessels, leaking blood vessels, and new abnormal blood vessels can be identified.
  • Amsler grid test. The optometrist will show you a grid and ask questions about the lines displayed, such as if they look faded, broken, or distorted. Your responses for the different areas will help map where your vision is impared.
  • Ultrasound. This test sends high frequency sound waves to view the structures in the eye and identify tissue characteristics.


Retinal damage cannot always be reversed, but treatments can help to slow the progression of already existing damage.

  • Laser or cryotherapy surgery. These surgeries will result in the creation of scar tissue that seals the retina to the back of the eye. These are most commonly used if the retina has detached.
  • Injections. Injections of certain medicines and/or the removal of blood from the eye, is most commonly used for those with diabetic retinopathy.
  • Evacuating and replacing the fluid in the eye. This procedure is called vitrectomy and it takes some of the gel-like substance (the vitreous) out of the eye and replaces it with air, gas, or liquid. This can be performed for those with a retinal tear, diabetic retinopathy, a macular hole, epiretinal membrane, an infection, eye trauma or a retinal detachment.
  • Early detection. The best way to treat any form of retinal damage is to catch it early. It is typically much easier to slow the effects in the early stages than it is to try to restore vision later. Not all forms of retinal damage are treatable, and some are severe eye emergencies that require an immediate visit to the optometrist or ophthalmologist. Try to stay up to date monitoring your eye health to prevent any worsening retinal damage symptoms.

Get Your Eyes Examined With Retinal Imaging At Specs In The City In Calgary

Retinal damage can come in many different forms. The best way to protect yourself and your vision from the many eye conditions caused by retinal damage is to have regular eye exams to monitor your eye health and to visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist if you suspect your retina has detached. When you come for an eye exam at Specs in the City in Calgary, our optometrists will do retinal imaging as well as examine your overall vision and eye health. If you appear to be suffering from any eye conditions, our Calgary optometrists may ask you to do more tests and they will further examine your retinal photos. If you are experiencing any of the listed symptoms or if you would like to learn about your eye health, you can book an appointment with us at our SE Calgary location, call us at 1-403-252-2020, or fill out our online contact form.


Q: Is retinal imaging included in a comprehensive eye exam?
A: Most eye clinics offer non-invasive and painless retinal imaging as a standard during a comprehensive eye exam.

Q: Are there any risks with retinal imaging?
A: There is little to no risk involved with undergoing retinal imaging. You may experience some mild discomfort from having to keep your eyes open and still for the laser scan. You may also experience temporary blurriness if you receive the pupil dilation drops.

Q: What do I do if I have retinal damage?
A: If you have a detached retina eye emergency you should immediately call Specs in the City at 1-403-252-2020 or you can go to the emergency room in the hospital. If your retinal damage is less immediate and is discovered in photographs, our skilled Calgary optometrists will work with you to diagnose your eye condition and will instruct you what to do next. Your eye health is top priority and we will help you understand what your diagnosis means and what we can do about it going forward.

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