Retinal diseases can be associated with aging, diabetes or other diseases, trauma to the eye, or family history. Symptoms might include seeing floating specks or cobwebs, blurred vision, distorted vision, defects in the field of vision, lost vision, or other problems.
To make a diagnosis, your ophthalmologist conducts a thorough eye exam and looks for abnormalities anywhere in the eye. The following tests may be done to determine the location and extent of the disease:
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- Amsler grid test. Your doctor may use an Amsler grid to test the clarity of your central vision. He or she will ask you if the lines of the grid seem faded, broken or distorted and will note where the distortion occurs on the grid to better understand the extent of retinal damage. If you have macular degeneration, he or she might also ask you to use this test to self-monitor your condition at home.
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT). OCT is an excellent technique for capturing precise images of the retina to diagnose epiretinal membranes, macular holes and macular swelling (edema), to monitor the extent of age-related wet macular degeneration, and to monitor responses to treatment. Details of the cross-sectional anatomy of the retina can be displayed almost at a cellular level.
- Fluorescein angiography. Fluorescein angiography uses a dye that causes blood vessels in the retina to stand out under a special light. This helps to exactly identify closed blood vessels, leaking blood vessels, new abnormal blood vessels and subtle pigmentary changes in the back of the eye. These abnormalities may be signs of diabetic retinopathy or other eye disorders.
- Indocyanine green angiography. Indocyanine green angiography uses a dye that lights up when exposed to infrared light, creating images showing retinal blood vessels and the deeper, harder-to-see blood vessels behind the retina in a tissue called the choroid.
- Ultrasound. Ultrasound (ultrasonography) uses high-frequency sound waves to help view the retina and other structures in the eye. This can be especially useful if you have a dense cataract or hemorrhage in your eye that prevents the doctor from evaluating your retina with standard optical instruments. Ultrasonography can also identify certain tissue characteristics that can help in the diagnosis and management of tumors of the eye.
- CT and MRI. In rare instances, these imaging methods can be used to help evaluate tumors of the eye.
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