Every part of your eye is important for good vision, but if you had to rank them in order of importance the retina and optic nerve would tie for first place. The retina is truly amazing. Unlike the lens and cornea, it cannot be replaced if irreparably damaged. In some cases, damage can be repaired, and we are learning more every day about healing the retina, but retinal damage continues to be a cause of permanent vision loss.
The retina is the back wall of the eye. Light that passes into your eye is focused on the retina. It is densely paced with light sensitive cells. Those cells convert the light energy to nerve energy and send the image to the brain via nerve fibers.
So far, there have been three types of light-sensitive cells identified in the retina:
- Rods for vision in dim light
- Cones for color vision and vision in bright light
- Ganglion which tell your body if the sun is rising or setting, playing a role in the circadian rhythm which determines sleep/wakefulness patterns
The macula is in the middle of the retina and is responsible for picking up and communicating the finest details of an image along with the center vision needed for tasks such as driving and reading. Macular degeneration robs you of your center vision because it affects the macula.
Macular edema is swelling and/or thickening of the macula. The distorted macula can relay a distorted or blurry image.
Problems of the macula, including macular degeneration, often make straight lines or text appear wavy. More severe problems can cause a dark or missing spot in the center of your vision.
Conditions of the retina are serious and need immediate attention. If you are experiencing problems with your central vision, please contact an experienced ophthalmologist and schedule and exam right away.