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Retina specialist: When should you see one?

Retinal exam using a fundus camera

A retina specialist (or retinal specialist) is an ophthalmologist who has undergone additional training to become an expert in the diagnosis, management and treatment of diseases of the retina of the eye.

In most cases, a retina specialist does not perform routine eye exams or prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses.

When should you see a retina specialist? 

In most cases, you will see a retina specialist only if you’re referred to one after a comprehensive eye exam by a regular eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist).

Reasons for a referral to a retinal specialist include:

  • Your eye doctor has detected something unusual in your retina and wants an expert second opinion about the condition or its management and treatment.

  • Your eye doctor believes you have a retinal condition that is best managed and treated by a retina specialist.

  • Your eye doctor believes you have a medical eye emergency (such as a detached retina) that needs immediate surgery by a retina specialist. 

Who should see a retina specialist?

Most people won’t need to see a retinal specialist in their lifetime.

However, reasons someone might need referral to retina specialist include: 

  • Risk of a retina or vitreous condition, due to genetics or other risk factors

  • For a special surgical procedure, such as a vitrectomy or repair of a detached retina

  • To evaluate a retinal hole or tear

  • For treatment of diabetic retinopathy

  • For ongoing management of a chronic disease of the retina, such as age-related macular degeneration

  • For evaluation and treatment of certain eye cancers

SEE RELATED: Detached retina symptoms and warning signs

Retina specialist: Emergency care

If you experience eye trauma or a vision-related emergency, do not hesitate to contact an eye doctor as soon as possible. You may then be referred to a retinal specialist.

In traumatic instances, such as eye injuries involving the retina, a retina specialist can offer a specialized emergency treatment plan. This may involve surgical treatment, among other special care.

READ NEXT: Retinal detachment surgery

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Gary Heiting, OD

Gary Heiting, OD, is a former senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 30 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear ... Read more