Retinal detachment is when the retina in your eye detaches itself from the supporting layers of the eye. While this disorder is a result of a retinal break, hole, or tear, it is not necessarily the result of trauma to the eye. Your eye is filled with a vitreous fluid that helps the eye maintain its round shape. As you age, this fluid or gel may start to pull away from the retina of the eye. As this happens, holes or tears can result. Once this break in the retina happens, the vitreous fluid or gel can now get behind the retina. When this happens, the gel forces the detachment of the retina from supporting layers of the eye.
Retinal Detachment Symptoms
The signs of a retinal detachment are as follows:
- Bright flashes of light, especially in the peripheral vision
- Blurred vision
- Floaters in the eye
- Shadow or blindness (often described as a curtain or veil) in a part of the visual field in one eye
While these symptoms are indicative of retinal detachment, they can also indicate other serious eye conditions. Flashes of light can simply be the vitreous gel pulling on the retina and not as a result of detachment. Floaters can also indicate other eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy. If you have any of these symptoms, call us immediately for a dilated eye exam.
Treatments for Retinal Detachment
Almost all patients suffering from a detached retina will need surgery to repair the condition. The specific treatment will depend upon the level of detachment. If there is no presence of detachment, then the holes and tears can be repaired with a laser or cryotherapy.
However, in the case of a detachment, there are a couple of different treatments available:
- Pneumatic Retinopexy
- Scleral Buckle
During this treatment the surgeon will repair the hole or tear in your retina first then a gas bubble will be injected into the vitreous to reattach the retina. This is a newer technique which requires you to keep your head in a specific position to keep the bubble pressing against your retina. The retina will reattach itself to the supporting layers of the eye and the bubble will eventually dissipate.
Scleral buckle surgery was the standard treatment for retinal detachment and is still frequently the treatment of choice. The first step is fixing the hole or tear, followed by removing the fluid from behind the retina. A plastic or sponge buckle is then wrapped around the eye to squeeze the outer layers of the eye to come into contact with the detached retina. Over time the retina will reattach to the supporting layers of the eye. The buckle is usually left permanently but is not visible.
Some patients suffering from retinal detachment may have a more severe case of detachment. Tears in the retina may be quite large and involve vitreous hemorrhage (blood in the eye) that may block the surgeon’s view of the retina. When this is the case, the surgeon will remove the vitreous gel and replace it with a gas bubble. Then the surgeon will repair the damage. Eventually, like in pneumatic retinopexy, the gas bubble will dissipate and it will be replaced by bodily fluid of the patient.
The outcome of treatment is dependent largely upon how big the retinal detachment is and if the macula is involved in the detachment.
While a retinal detachment is not preventable, yearly exams can help detect when this condition might be present. Treating this condition quickly is the best course of action to prevent further damage to your eye.
Retinal detachment is a sight threatening condition which requires immediate attention. Call the office at the first sign of symptoms and schedule a same day dilated eye exam. Call us at 303-320-1777.