The retina is a transparent layer in the rear of the eye consisting mainly of nerve cells, and is actually an extension of the brain. The front of the eye (the cornea) focuses images onto the retina that are interpreted by the brain. The retina is nourished by blood vessels that, ironically, can also lead to its destruction through abnormal blood vessel growth. Two other key areas of the retina are the optic nerve head, where the central retina artery and vein join the retina, and the macula, which is responsible for most of a person’s sharp central vision and color perception. Another component of the eye, vitreous, is a clear, jelly-like substance that fills the area between the lens of the eye and the retina.
While all the components of the eye are crucial to good sight, the retina is one of the most fragile components. Damage to the retina is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, primarily because most of the damage is irreversible.
Because the retina is so important to good vision but also so fragile, the collection of retinal eye diseases are varied and often quite serious. The following sections explore the most common retinal issues.
Common retina conditions: