What Is the Posterior Pole?

The posterior pole is a site at the back of the eye that includes the macula and the optic disc. It is part of the fundus of the eye, the entire structure at the rear of this organ, and can contain clinically significant findings in patients with vision problems. At the macula, a dense cluster of cells provides key functions for detailed, crisp vision, while the optic disc represents the point where nerves exit the eye to travel along the optic nerve to the brain. Disorders in this eye region can cause vision loss or low vision, depending on their nature and severity.

Imaging techniques are available to allow care providers to view the posterior pole. They can illuminate the fundus of the eye to get a crisp picture of the retina, and may use techniques like imaging studies with contrast to highlight blood vessels in this region. It’s also possible to measure tissue thickness and other characteristics in an examination of the posterior pole. This information may be important for diagnostic purposes, or in patient follow-up to monitor response to treatment.

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In a regular clinical exam, a doctor can shine a light through the pupil and into the back of the eye to quickly visualize structures. This can be made easier with the use of eye drops to dilate the pupil, allowing the doctor to have a less obstructed view. Techniques like angiography can also be performed on the eye. Images of the eye may be added to a patient chart, and doctors can also draw what they see during quick visual exams if they spot something they believe may be a cause for concern.

One issue that can arise around the posterior pole is lesions, which may be caused by infections, degenerative eye disease, or congenital conditions. Areas of abnormal tissue in the posterior pole may limit a patient’s vision, particularly when they are located in the macular region. Physicians may be able to identify issues like fungal growths or inadequate blood supply that may be the cause of vision problems. Disorders may be treatable with surgery, medication, and other treatment options to help patients retain vision or stop vision loss.

Patients with eye diseases can experience very rapid progression if the disease is not identified and treated in a timely fashion. Once damage starts to occur at the posterior pole, symptoms like blurred vision and dark spots may develop. Patients should bring these issues to the attention of a doctor so they can receive an examination to determine what is going on and develop a treatment plan that will address the issue.

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