The Medical Retina Department from Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), a member of the SingHealth group, explains how the retina works and common eye conditions that affect it.

The retina is a thin, transparent structure that covers the inner wall of the eye. The eye works like a camera, and the retina is similar to the film in the camera. It is where images are first projected before they are transmitted through the optic nerve to the brain, enabling you to see.

Retinal diseases vary widely. Depending on the severity of the condition, the treatment goals may be to stop or slow down the disease and preserve, improve or restore a person’s vision, Some retinal diseases can cause severe vision loss or blindness if left untreated.

Common conditions affecting the retina

Common retinal diseases and conditions include:

1. Retinal tear

A retinal tear occurs when part of the retina separates from the outer layers of the eye. It is often accompanied by the sudden onset of symptoms such as floaters and flashing lights.

2. Retinal detachment

A retinal detachment is defined by the presence of fluid under the retina. This usually occurs when fluid passes through a retinal tear, causing the retina to lift away from the underlying tissue layers.

3. Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and causes damage to the blood vessels in the retina.

4. Epiretinal membrane

Epiretinal membrane is the formation of a thin membrane over part of the retina known as the macula. The macula is the most sensitive part of the eye and plays a central role in processing detailed vision. As the membrane contracts, it causes distortion of the retinal tissue.

5. Macular hole

A macular hole occurs when there is a tear in the macula.  When this happens, fluid seeps through the hole onto the macula, which blurs and distorts your central vision.

6. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic irreversible medical condition that results in vision loss in the centre of the visual field (the macula) because of damage to the retina. There are two types — wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration. Many people will first have the dry form, which can progress to the wet form in one or both eyes.

7. Retinitis pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited degenerative disease. It slowly affects the retina and causes loss of night and side vision.

Treatments available

Click on the links below to learn more about the conditions that affect the retina and the treatment options available.

Timely Eye Injections Help Preserve Vision

Diabetic Retinopathy: Diagnosis

How to Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy

Age-related Macular Degeneration: What You Need to Know

Macular Degeneration: What Is It

Singapore Integrated Diabetic Retinopathy Programme (SiDRP)

SNEC and Duke-NUS Study Shows Spike in Eye Disease in the Next Two Decades

A.I. for the Eye: New Tech Cuts Time for Spotting Signs of Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes and Its Link to Eye Problems - Doctor Q&A


Ongoing clinical trial for age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Translational Asian Age-related Macular Degeneration Programme (TAAP)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of vision loss, which leads to enormous socioeconomic and healthcare costs. The numbers affected is rising rapidly, due in part, to an ageing population. A subtype called polypoidal choroidal vasculopathy (PCV) makes up 50% of AMD in Asians, but current understanding of this subtype remains limited.

Professor Gemmy Cheung from the Singapore Eye Research Institute, together with her diverse team of retinal specialists, clinician-scientists, and basic scientists, seek to reduce vision loss and blindness from AMD and improve quality of life for patients with this disease through the Translational Asian Age-related macular degeneration Programme (TAAP), funded through an Open Fund – Large Collaborative Grant from the National Medical Research Council in Singapore.

Click on the link below to learn more about the programme.

SNEC, SERI and NCCS Wins $60 Million in National Research Grants


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