Retinal detachment occurs when the vitreous, or gel-like substance, leaks through the retina and accumulates below. Aging or conditions of the retina can cause the retina to thin over time, creating a tear. Fluid inside the vitreous then leaks into the tear and collects underneath the retina, pulling it away from the underlying tissues. These tissues contain essential blood vessels. If the retina detaches from these vessels, it stops working and vision is impaired.
Symptoms of Retina Detachment
Though retinal detachment sounds uncomfortable, it is not physically painful. However, it’s important to pay attention to the warning signs that retinal detachment may occur so that you don’t lose your vision. Below are some of the symptoms to pay attention to.
● Sudden appearance of many floaters
● Flashes of light in one or both eyes
● Gradually reduced side vision
● Blurred vision
● Shadows over your field of vision
If you notice any of the above symptoms, see your eye specialist immediately. It may be the start of retinal detachment, or it could be another eye condition that needs attention. You are at a greater risk for retinal detachment if you are over the age of 50, extremely nearsighted and have a family member with a detached retina.
How is Retinal Detachment Treated?
In almost every case, surgery is needed to repair a retinal tear, hole or detachment. The good news is that there are many treatments available. Talk to your eye specialist about which route is best.
If you catch a retina tear early on, you can prevent detachment and preserve your vision. Your eye doctor may recommend laser surgery. This technique uses a laser beam that is directed into the eye. Burns are made around the tear to create scars that secure the retina to the tissue.
Another procedure is cryopexy. This technique uses a freezing probe that is applied to the outer surface of the eye to cause scarring around the tear. The scars hold the retina and tissues together.
If your retina has already detached, the above two procedures won’t be effective. Your eye specialist will recommend surgery. The type of surgery suggested will depend on how severe the detachment is.
Injecting air or gas into the eye is a common form of treatment because it’s less invasive. A bubble is injected into the center of the eye. The bubble pushes on the retina to stop fluid from collecting underneath it. The freezing method is then used to repair the break.
Another technique that may be used is scleral buckling, which requires the eye surgeon to sew a piece of silicone material to the white part of the eye and over the tear. This relieves tugging and pressure. Finally, your retina specialist may recommend a vitrectomy, which involves draining the fluid and replacing it with gas, air or silicone oil.
The best way to prevent a retinal detachment is by visiting your eye doctor regularly and reporting any unusual signs to your physician. If you catch it early enough, you have more treatment options and a better chance of keeping your vision.