Retina and Macular Degeneration

The retina is a transparent layer of nerve tissue in the back of the eye that functions like the film in a camera, capturing images focused by the structures in the front of the eye. After capturing the images, it transmits them to the brain. The macula is the central part of the retina that is specialized for high-resolution vision and is critical in tasks such as reading, driving, and other activities requiring fine visual discrimination. The vitreous is a jelly-like substance that fills the eye and is frequently implicated in diseases such as retinal tears, retinal detachment, and others.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of severe vision loss in older Americans. It affects central vision and may interfere with daily tasks such as reading and driving. Several of our Retina specialists have developed a particular focus on this disease, and have been instrumental in developing innovative treatments to control and reverse the effects of AMD. As the early form of macular degeneration does not cause any visual symptoms, if you are age 50 or older, a complete eye examination by an ophthalmologist is recommended on an annual basis to look for signs of the disease, particularly if there is any history of macular degeneration in your family.

The Mass. Eye and Ear Retina service associated with BWH is one of the largest such subspecialty groups in the country. We have a rich history of innovation that has lead to major advances in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases, such as:

  • First use of Proton Beam Therapy (PBI) for eye tumors
  • Co-discovered Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), the most widely used non-invasive imaging modality in retina
  • Discovered Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) for treatment of wet macular degeneration.
  • Developed the first pharmacologic anti-VEGF therapy for wet macular degeneration (Macugen™)
  • Performed the basic-science work behind the most effective current treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (Lucentis™)

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