What is Retinal Detachment?

A detached retina is an serious medical emergency that can lead to permanent vision loss if it is not treated promptly. Thanks to innovative treatment options, many people who suffer from retinal detachment can maintain useful vision. Learning about retinal detachment symptoms can help you react quickly if you or a friend or family member ever experience this vision problem.

What Happens During a Retinal Detachment?

The retina is a thin layer of light-sensing cells that lines the back part of the inside of your eye. The retina turns light into signals that are transmitted via the optic nerve to the brain, where they are converted into images. A retinal detachment occurs if all or part of the retina begins to pull away from the back of eye. When this happens, the retinal cells no longer receive oxygen from the blood vessels in the eye and may eventually die if you do not receive emergency treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Retinal Detachment?

Retinal detachment does not cause any pain, but can cause one or more of these symptoms:

  • Floaters. These tiny, string-like fibers seems to float through your field of vision. Although it’s not unusual to see one or two float by occasionally, if you suddenly notice many floaters, you may have a retinal detachment.
  • Light Flashes. Flashing lights can occur when the retina separates from the back of the eye.
  • Dark Curtain. During a retinal detachment, you may notice that a dark curtain impairs all or part of your vision. The dark area can grow larger if the detachment gets worse.

How Are Detachments Treated?

A retinal detachment is always a medical emergency. If you experience any of the above symptoms, call your eye doctor or go to the emergency room immediately. Doctors typically perform two types of surgery to repair the retinal detachment. Laser surgery is used to create tiny burn areas around the detached area to help fuse it back into place, while cryopexy is a technique that uses freezing cold temperatures to seal the edges of the retina.

Your doctor may also use a procedure known as pneumatic retinopexy to repair the tear. During this procedure, your doctor injects a small bubble of air or gas into your eye, which then seals the tear. If fluid from the vitreous, the clear gel that gives your eyeball its shape, accumulates under the torn area, your doctor may perform a vitrectomy. During the procedure, the fluid is drained, inject air or gas is injected to seal the tear, and the eye is refilled with liquid.

Some people who have retinal detachments benefit from scleral buckling. During this procedure, a small piece of silicone rubber or a sponge is sewn in place over the sclera, the white part of your eye. The scleral buckle pushes the white part of your eye inward, which helps the retina move back into its usual position against the back of your eye. Scleral buckling is usually combined with cryopexy or laser surgery.

Regular examinations are the key to maintaining good eye health. Call us today and schedule your next appointment.

Who Is at Risk for Retinal Detachment

Certain people are at higher risk for retinal detachment than others. You may be at increased risk if you:

  • Had a recent eye injury
  • Are very nearsighted
  • Have diabetic retinopathy. If you have this condition, fluid from leaking blood vessels can accumulate under the retina.
  • Recently had cataract surgery
  • Are related to someone who has had a retinal detachment or have already had a retinal detachment in your other eye
  • Have another eye disease or disorder, including lattice degeneration, retinoschisis, uveitis or another inflammatory disorder. These diseases can cause fluid to build up under your retina even if you don’t have a tear.