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UNC Department of Ophthalmology joins the global eye health community in celebrating World Retina Day on September 24th, 2023. This eye health recognition day was created to educate individuals on the ocular function of the retina and on diseases that affect this most crucial part of the eye maintaining normal, clear vision.

The retina is a light-sensitive, innermost layer of tissue that also lines the back wall of the eye. Its ocular function is similar to that of camera film or an image sensor. The optic nerve transmits information gathered by the retina’s photoreceptor cells — rods and cones — to the brain that is then processed into an image.  Any damage to the retina may result in visual impairment. When veins carrying neurons between the optic nerve and brain are damaged, neurons die, and the brain doesn’t receive visual information.

The most common diseases affecting the retina are retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. Retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive disease that has no cure, is an umbrella term for a group of genetic disorders that are characterized by night blindness (nyctalopia) and the loss of peripheral vision that may result in tunnel vision. Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration, results in blurred or absent vision in the center of the visual field.  Other diseases and disorders that may affect the retina include cone-rod dystrophy, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, retinitis pigmentosa, retinoblastoma, and many others.

To learn more about the function of the retina and how maintain one’s retinal health, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)’s “Retina” page.