Retina specialist helps when health, eye concerns overlap

This paid piece is sponsored by Sanford Health.

Eye care. Health care. You probably think of them as separate, and that’s fine, right? You know one place will focus on your eyes, and the other will pretty much take care of the rest.

But if you have blurred vision from a retinal condition, you realize how a health problem can risk your vision, too.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Kimberly Tran specializes in retinal diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion and retinal detachment at Sanford Eye Center & Optical, 1621 S. Minnesota Ave.

While Dr. Tran is based in the eye care center, she operates at Sanford USD Medical Center and collaborates with patients’ primary care and specialty doctors, as well as other eye care providers, to play a crucial role in her patients’ vision and health care team. That ability to collaborate within a health system is one aspect that recently attracted this California native to Sioux Falls.

“When I meet with my patients for the first time, I like to tell them, ‘This is the beginning of a relationship.’ That’s one of the parts I love best about my job – forming a long-term relationship with my patients,” said Dr. Tran.

She describes the retina as “a very thin layer of nerve cells that wrap along the inside of the eye. These cells sense light and send signals to the brain, allowing you to see.” Problems with the retina will cause blurred vision, and if not appropriately treated, the vision loss can be permanent. That’s where Tran steps in.

Take, for example, a patient with poorly controlled diabetes. “Poorly controlled diabetes can cause swelling, bleeding, or scarring and retinal detachment in the retina. Without treatment, this can lead to permanent vision loss,” Tran said.

If a patient has a retinal detachment, when the retina pulls away from the inside wall of the eye, she can perform surgery to repair it.

However, it’s an exacting surgery involving a microscope and tiny instruments that actually enter the eyeball. In other words, not just anyone can do it. After college, it still requires four years of medical school, a one-year internship, three years of ophthalmology residency, and an additional one to two years of surgical retinal fellowship to learn specifically how to treat retina issues and operate on the retina.

So Tran, who did her residency and fellowship at the esteemed Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, spent as long in higher education and training as it takes for a newborn to reach the teen years. She spent an additional year at the institute as chief resident, clinical instructor and co-director of the ocular trauma service.

Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, age-related macular degeneration and retinal detachment may bring patients routinely to a specialist like Tran. But she treats patients of all ages. Some may have inherited retinal diseases, inflammation, infection or injuries to the eyes, all of which could cause problems in the retina and blurred vision and need urgent treatment.

It’s easy for her to communicate with patients’ Sanford Health doctors to help them get the best outcome in every area of their health.

“It’s important to have a retina specialist within the Sanford system because these patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, even rheumatologic disease, can all have vision-threatening complications from their disease that may require a retina specialist,” Tran said. “I think it’s important as part of a comprehensive health care plan to have all of these subspecialists available to our patients.”

For information, call Sanford Eye Center & Optical at 605-328-9200.

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Retina specialist helps when health, eye concerns overlap

She’s a Californian who recently moved to Sioux Falls to offer expert eye care at Sanford Health. Get to know this impressive new specialist.

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