Retina - Gulf Coast Eye Institute


World-Class Retina Care

The Valley Retina Institute Logo Welcome to the new home of the Valley Retina Institute. We provide all the same care and the same doctors you’ve come to love from Valley Retina Institute across our Gulf Coast Eye locations! No matter what your retinal issue is, we have experts who can guide you through treatment and recovery.

We have a department devoted to clinical research as it relates to eye conditions and innovative treatments, with special emphasis on the retina. Our dedicated research team searches out studies/trials that have notable patient benefits and help us provide exceptional care.

Blurred and clouded vision?

Blind spots and shadows?

Flashes and floaters?

The retina is a light-sensing nerve layer at the back of the eye. It’s such an important part of your sight function in that it covers 65% of the eye’s interior surface.

These are the warning signs of retina problems that require immediate attention from an experienced retina specialist.

The main job of the retina is to receive focused light from the lens, convert it into neural signals and send these signals on to the brain for visual recognition. If there is a disconnect between the retina and the optic nerve, vision may be impaired.


Victor H. Gonzalez, M.D. has been in practice since 1995. He expanded his retina practice, Valley Retina Institute, when he founded Gulf Coast Eye Institute in 2007. Today, Gulf Coast Eye Institute/Valley Retina Institute is a comprehensive eye care practice, with a focus on retinas, that has six locations, which serve the entire Rio Grande Valley region and generations of families residing there.

At Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute, we treat a full range of retina and vitreous problems including diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, retinal detachment and other vitreoretinal disorders.

At Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute, we take every measure to make sure you receive the most comprehensive and effective care possible, including:

    • The latest in diagnostic and treatment protocol
    • Expertise of a board-certified ophthalmologist who is fellowship-trained in retina
    • Access to the latest medications and therapies, thanks to our commitment to clinical research

Why it’s Worth the Wait

Our doctors are committed to innovation and technology, in particular, where there is a direct benefit to our patients. Training and education are at the heart of our culture. There are a few reasons you may experience longer than average wait times at a retina appointment:

    • Dilation is required for many retina tests and takes 30-45 minutes.
    • Retinal Angiograms are vital in diagnosing macular degeneration and diabetic vision concerns and take about 30 minutes to administer.
    • Same-day testing, diagnosis and treatment are available for your convenience.
    • We see eye emergencies, in such cases, we provide priority care without an appointment, which can affect patient scheduling.
    • Our doctors are on call 24/7, for virtually all area hospitals for urgent patient issues.

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Understanding The Retina

You’ve heard it before: Your eyes are the window to your soul—and also to your health. The eye is a delicate organ and vision is a dynamic process involving many moving parts.
The main component is the retina, an amazing and complex structure in the eye. The retina is a heavy lifter where vision function is concerned. It is the nerve-rich, light-sensing area in the back of the eye that is crucial for sight.
The retina is a little like wallpaper at the back of the eye and is covered with many small blood vessels. Many of the issues related to vision conditions depend on whether or not these blood vessels leak.
The retina’s main job is to receive focused light from the lens, convert it into neural signals and send these signals on to the brain for visual recognition.

Diagram of the eye with labels

As people age, they may begin to experience retina conditions that affect their ability to see clearly. Whether it’s blurred vision, blind spots and shadows, or flashers and floaters that bother you, there is no time to wait until it worsens. It is time to consult with a retina specialist at Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute.

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Woman interested in retina diseasesRetina Conditions And Treatments

Here are the most common retina eye conditions and their respective treatments:

Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 29 million Americans have diabetes and nearly half will develop some form of diabetic eye disease. Most of those cases will be diabetic retinopathy.
Retinopathy is an impairment of the retina—the nerve-rich, light-sensing area in the back of the eye that is crucial for sight. Diabetic retinopathy causes blurred and distorted eyesight, and it can even lead to blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among Americans between the ages of 25 and 70. – National Institute of Health

One of the complications of diabetes is the weakening of tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. Fluid and blood leak from the weakened vessels. New vessels that grow can be distorted and then bleed. These vessels can injure the retina, leading to loss of vision.
Diabetic retinopathy typically develops without any warning signs. The damage to the eye can occur slowly and may go unnoticed until there is significant damage.



Diagnosing Diabetic Retinopathy

To diagnose diabetic retinopathy, your Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute retina specialist will first ask about your diabetes. Why? Studies show if patients with diabetic retinopathy are treated properly before the retina is severely damaged, they will have an excellent chance of stabilizing the disease and stopping its progress. So if you have diabetes, you should have a comprehensive eye exam at Gulf Coast Eye Institute at least once a year.
During a complete eye exam, your Gulf Coast Eye Institute physician will examine the interior of your eye using the latest diagnostic tools. Photos of the interior of the eye may also be taken.
If there is evidence of blood vessel damage, a special exam called a retinal (fluorescein) angiography will be conducted. During this test, dye will be injected in your arm and photos will be taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in your retina. This will allow your retina specialist to identify any blood vessels that may be leaking and to determine how best to correct the problem.

Treating Diabetic Retinopathy

Each Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute patient’s treatment plan is individually customized based on their medical history, age, lifestyle and degree of damage to the retina.
In its earliest stages, no treatment may be required for diabetic retinopathy except regular monitoring by your retina specialist.
If treatment is required, your Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute surgeon will use laser surgery to seal or shrink the leaking blood vessels in a process called photocoagulation.


Steps To Prevent Vision Loss

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, managing your diabetes is the most important step you can take to prevent further progression of the condition. This means:

    • Monitoring and controlling blood sugar levels
    • Keeping blood pressure in a healthy range
    • Eating nutritious foods
    • Exercising
    • Taking all medications as prescribed

Remember, even if you don’t notice vision changes, scheduling regular eye check-ups is essential for every person with diabetes.


What About Diabetic Macular Edema?

Chronic high levels of blood sugar caused by diabetes can damage the tiny blood vessels in the macula, a small area in the center of the retina that is critical to sharp vision. As the blood vessels weaken, they leak fluid—causing swelling known as macular edema.
Standard treatment for macular edema includes laser therapy and corticosteroid eye drops or injections. Laser therapy seals off the leaking blood vessels, while corticosteroid medication reduces inflammation and prevents further damage to the retina.

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Age-Related Macular Degeneration

What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye disease that causes loss of vision, usually in people over age 50. In fact, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, impacting more than 10 million Americans—that’s more than cataracts and glaucoma combined.
While Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute is a pioneer in retinal research, the exact cause of age-related macular degeneration is unknown and it is currently considered an incurable eye disease. You can be sure, though, that our research and development specialists at Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute have our eyes on a future cure.
Age-related macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, called the macula. The macula is responsible for focusing central vision and controlling our ability to read, drive, recognize faces or colors and see objects in fine detail.
Regular eye exams are vital to diagnose potential problems and maintain visual health. Conditions are more receptive to treatment during their early stages. Once the macula has been severely damaged, treatment is not possible.
What is Macular Degeneration

Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

In the earliest stages of macular degeneration, vision may become blurred for reading or distance or both. Central vision is also affected. A very important symptom to pay attention to is distortion. Straight lines and edges may appear slightly bent. You may also see a dark gray spot in the center of images, or notice that the sizes or colors of objects don’t appear the same for each eye. These symptoms require prompt attention by your Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute retina specialist.


Dry And Wet

There are two basic types of age-related macular degeneration: dry and wet. Approximately 85% to 90% of the cases of AMD are the dry, or atrophic type; while 10% to 15% are the wet, or exudative type.


Treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

To reiterate, there is currently no cure for macular degeneration. Prevention and monitoring are the best medicines. A healthy lifestyle can be important in reducing risk by:

    • Adopting a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish
    • Supplementing your diet with vitamins high in specific antioxidants (A, C, E, beta-carotene and zinc)
    • Incorporating a special combination of vitamins and minerals in your diet (consult your retina specialist at Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute)

Intravitreal injections are a way to treat wet macular degeneration. Special drugs are placed in the eye to help slow down vision loss from macular degeneration and, in some cases, may improve sight.

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What are Retinal Tears and Retinal Detachment?

The inside of the back of the eye is filled with a jelly-like substance—the vitreous—which is attached to the retina. A tear in the retina is very concerning as it can allow fluid to enter through the tear and separate the retina from underlying tissue. Remember how we said the retina is like wallpaper at the back of your eye? If the tear is not repaired, moisture from the eye can get behind it and eventually begin to peel off and fall off (detachment).

Retinal tears can be repaired effectively through a non-invasive, in-office procedure at Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute. Cryotherapy (cold/freeze therapy) or laser therapy can be used to seal retinal tears. In cold treatment, a probe is placed on the outside surface of the eye directly over the retinal tear. With laser, beams are directed into the eye and zoom in on the area of the retinal tear. Both methods report great success in treatment. Prompt evaluation can be a vision-saving difference between a retina tear and full detachment.

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What Are Flashes And Floaters?

Flashes and floaters are caused by clumps of undissolved, vitreous gel material floating in the back of the eye. This ends up casting shadows on the retina when light enters the eye. With floaters you see a speck in your vision that moves when you look around, top to bottom or side to side. Flashes occur when the vitreous gel rubs against the retina or pulls on it. Flashes of light in your vision is often described as “seeing stars.”
Most flashes and floaters are not a problem, generally harmless and require no treatment. But, flashes and floaters can be symptoms of a torn or detached retina that has pulled away from the back of the eye.
You should have a comprehensive eye exam with an expert at Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute if you notice new floaters or more flashes in your vision and to make sure there has been no damage to your retina.

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What Is Uveitis?

Uveitis is an inflammation that occurs in the middle layer of the eye (the uvea), causing redness, pain, blurred vision and light sensitivity. Uveitis is rare, with fewer than 200,000 cases reported per year in the U.S. But it can be serious, leading to permanent vision loss.
Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent complications of uveitis. The common treatment is eye drops to ease inflammation. If uveitis is the result of an infection, your ophthalmologist may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication.

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Retina Research

At Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute, we have a world-class Retina Research Center where trials of new devices, procedures, medications and other technologies are conducted. As a patient, you will have exclusive access to retina specialists, tests and treatments that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Quality of service and legendary care is our passion at Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute. Clinical research is just one more area that helps us provide exceptional care to every patient. Our dedicated research team seeks out studies/trials that have notable patient benefits.

Research and expertise are often the difference between preserving sight and irreversible vision loss. At Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute, you can be certain you will receive:

    • The latest in diagnostic and treatment protocol
    • The expertise of board-certified ophthalmologists who are fellowship-trained in retina
    • Access to clinical trials (including the latest medications and therapies)

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Meet Our Retina Specialists

Diagnosis and treatment of retina conditions require careful use of diagnostic tools and significant doctor/patient facetime, which is always available at Gulf Coast Eye/Valley Retina Institute. Dr. Gonzalez and the whole team take the necessary time with each patient to educate them on their conditions so they can make an informed decision about retina surgeries.

Meet our retina specialists:

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